Three years ago when we came to Cuba, we asked our guides what we could bring them if we came back the following year. Their answer: Baseball equipment. All the guides had kids who played baseball, but, they told us, it was very, very hard to buy the equipment in the little towns where they lived. I mean, they couldn’t just go down to the local sporting goods store and get their kid a mitt or a bat because, well, there were no sporting goods stores.
So the next year, Chris Fletcher bought a bunch of baseball equipment and we split it up amongst three of us and hauled it over there in duffel bags and handed it out at the end of the trip. That was great. But when we saw the looks on the faces of the other staff members of the boat who also had kids and hadn’t gotten a Yankee cap or a brand-new baseball, well, we kind of felt bad about it.
This year, Mr. Fletcher, who is surely one of the most generous and caring individuals I’ve ever met in my life, again organized Operation: Cuban Béisbol. A few weeks ago he called me up and asked if I’d mind taking some of the equipment over and so I stopped by his house and looked at all the new gear that he had spread across his pool table. There were a dozen gloves, two dozen baseball caps (evenly split between the Yankees and Boston), half a dozen metal bats, and three batting helmets. It was amazing. I managed to jam two of the bats into my plastic fishing rod carrier and filled a duffel bag with a box of baseballs, a couple of gloves, and half of the hats. Fletch filled another duffel with equipment and then recruited another member of our group, Greg Geiser, to carry the rest.
This time we organized the give-away much differently. Instead of waiting until the end of the trip and handing stuff out to each guide, we called everybody up to the second deck and just took all of the equipment out of our duffels and spread it across the teak table.
“This is for all of you,” Fletch said. “The entire staff. You guys figure out how to divide it up.”
It was a brilliant maneuver. The guides, of course, were stoked to see all of the new baseball equipment that they would be bringing back to their sons and daughters at the end of the trip (How great for dad to come home after being out on a fishing boat for a week and walking in the door and not only getting lots of hugs and kisses from his kids but then be able to say, “And look what I brought you!” and give them a new bat or a glove.)
It was fun for us, too. The guides were very appreciative. But so was the rest of the staff, including the only woman on the boat, Suliet, who has a 3-year-old who is just starting to learn to play catch with his dad. One of the boxes of balls Fletch brought were the soft balls for smaller kids and Suliet couldn’t wait to give him one and a Yankees cap. After we’d distributed all of the gear on the table, the guides scooped it up and took it back to the crew quarters and we could see them, through the pass window, excitedly looking everything over and swapping equipment with each other, trying to decide who would get a glove or a batting helmet or a bat. The best part was that there are nine crew members so everyone got both a Yankee and a Boston cap and everyone also got a couple of baseballs.
Later in the day, Suliet came out and personally thanked me for the equipment. I told her I was just a carrier and that Fletch was responsible for the idea and for procuring everything. She was very moved by this. “And what can we do to thank you for this?” she asked me. I told her the only thing we would really love is if they would take pictures of their kids actually using the equipment at home or in a game and e-mail them to us (a few of the staff, including Suliet, have limited web access and e-mail accounts). “I will do this,” Suliet said. “I promise.”
I’m looking forward to getting those photos.
Comments are now closed.