Common Ground in Cuba

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Backroads employees, Oakland A's  baseball game

With my co-worker Kevin at an A’s game last season

As a die-hard fan and season ticket holder for the Oakland A’s, I can usually be found in the bleachers behind our star left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba in 2011. I’m a big geek when it comes to baseball, and this was just one of many reasons I booked a Backroads trip to Cuba. Before I knew it, I was on my way to visit Cespedes’ homeland.

Our group meeting the legendary Rigoberto Rosique

Our group meeting the legendary Rigoberto Rosique

I was pretty excited to visit the Palmar de Junco ballpark, where the first official game of Cuban baseball was played. I even got to chat with some up-and-coming players and meet Rigoberto Rosique, one of the famous “Three Musketeers.” (I’m pretty sure I asked 90% of our group’s questions on our visit!) While the ballpark experience was amazing, my absolute favorite memory of the trip involved Eider, our wonderful and mischievous bus driver, and our shared love of the game. Leaving the ballpark, Eider drove us back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. My friend and I flipped on the TV to see what Cuban television was like. Much to my delight, the 53rd National Baseball Series was on. Not knowing anything about either team, I rooted for Las Tunas because their name was funny to me and the other team, the Industriales, looked too much like the Dodgers for my taste.

It was a good matchup and, after going into extra innings, my newly adopted Las Tunas won! Knowing fan loyalties run deep in Cuba, I cautioned my friend not to say which team I’d cheered on. Unfortunately, not being a sports fan, she didn’t realize that I was serious. As we met up with the group she announced that “my team” had won. I immediately looked to Eider, who by now had become a friend, to gauge his reaction. It was clear I’d chosen the wrong team.

Backroads employee Jen Brasher and bus driver Eider

Eider and me

With a sparkle in his eye, he pointed at me and then moved his fingers in a scissor motion indicating that I’d be walking the rest of the trip. While the group got a good laugh, I was forced to plead my case…“I didn’t know any better” and “really, who could resist rooting for a team called Las Tunas wearing bright green and red uniforms?” Then “Mea culpa. Mea culpa.” He smiled and nodded but I knew I wasn’t completely off the hook yet.

After that, every now and then an impish grin would cross Eider’s face and he’d point at me and I’d dutifully yell “Go Industriales!” At dinner a few nights later I joked that if he wanted to enjoy a beer, I’d be happy to drive us all back to the hotel. His response was to laugh and throw me the keys. With that, I knew I’d earned back my seat.

While I never did drive the bus, I got a picture of me sitting in the driver’s seat. And as we disembarked for the last time, I smiled and cheered “Go Industriales!” and Eider cheered “Go Oakland Athletics!” It’s my favorite memory of Cuba.

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Jen Brasher

Jen Brasher

All the world’s a stage for Bay Area native and Oakland A’s super-fan Jen. With a BA in Theater Arts and over 20 years of live theater experience, she’s played countless roles from Stage Crew to Company Manager. Now Jen’s second act is with Backroads as the Trip Operations Support Assistant Manager, making sure trips run smoothly from pre-production to curtain call. She’s so committed to making Backroads trips great that she worked behind the scenes at the DaVita Tour to make gourmet lasagna for 500 hungry cyclists in 27 Dutch ovens stacked 4 high—even the seasoned Backroads leaders were impressed! So what’ll be Jen’s encore? We can’t wait to see!
Jen Brasher

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