Estadio Jose Antonio Huelga (Sancti Spiritus)
Our visit here was for a night game on a cool evening. Night games are great in Cuba, because it's cooler, people are off from work and are out for a good time. Best of all, this was a well-played game, with plenty of action, controversial plays and arguments over umpire calls, topped off by a walk-off home run.
The park holds about 12,000 fans. Although it looks larger from the outside, there are no outfield seats. There was a lot of activity outside the park, with by far the most variety of concessions. We also had the chance to meet the League Commissioner.
Like other parks, the section behind home plate features ground-level field boxes, about 13 rows of bench seats, and a press box that held about 20 people.
Since this was a rare night game, we were able to check out something new to me at a ballpark -- the foul poles feature full-length florescent lights. We were not able to come to a conclusion as to whether the lights make it easier for the umps to rule a ball fair or foul, and we wondered if these have been tried in any U.S. minor-league park.
Estadio N.Guyen Van-Troi (Guantanamo)
This game and this ballpark really showed how exciting Cuban baseball can be -- a night game, completely packed with 25,000+ fans, for a game against a western rival, Habana. A great band playing a style of hypnotic Cuban jazz had everyone dancing and waving large Cuban flags. The entire upper deck was lined with police and other security officers to maintain order, but this did not seem to limit the fans' excitement. There were several vendors offering sandwiches and snacks, inside and outside the park.
Like some other parks, the Guantanamo ballpark has an enclosed box seat area between the dugouts, right behind home. This area, while protected by chain link fencing, provides a great view of the field and good camera access), especially for plays at the plate, and there were several, including the tying run. To top it off, Guantanamo came from behind and won on a bases-loaded walk-off walk.Estadio Guillermon Moncada (Santiago de Cuba)
Santiago de Cuba is the oldest and second largest city in Cuba (pop. almost 500,000), founded by the Spanish in 1514. It is also the location of Moncada Barracks, where Castro began his movement to overthrow the Batista regime in 1953. Estadio Guillermon Moncadaseats about 25,000.
Like some other Cuban ballparks, an interesting feature is three rows of box seats under the grandstand, at field level, that run from the dugouts to the foul poles. These seats have the benefit of a close view of the infield, as well as a guarantee of shade. Since Santiago is a major ballpark, there was a good selection of sandwiches and snacks, with vendors walking throughout the park.
After the game we encountered a busy market of game hats and jerseys for sale from both teams, including a game-worn World Baseball Classic BP jersey.
Estadio Julio Antonio Mella (Las Tunas)
The ballpark in Las Tunas (home of Los Cocodrilos) is typical of the smaller parks in rural cities in Cuba. Most of the seating is cement, and the grandstands appear to have been built at different times. The first-base and right-field stands are continuous out to center field, but look older than the two separate grandstands on the third-base line. All the stands have a partial roof, providing some shade, depending on the sun.
A colorful feature is the pair of large figures of Cuban National Team players, one on each side of the center field scoreboard. On the center-field wall, two large baseballs are painted with retired players' names and numbers. The park has a few food concessions, and there are some small stands outside as well.
We came home with a wonderful experience of Cuba and Cuban baseball, which will always be in our thoughts when attending games in the US. We love our great new, comfortable ballparks (majors and minors), large food selection and cold microbrews, but games in Cuba seem to present a baseball experience focused completely on the game. Admission to the games is free, and people of all ages gather for the purpose of watching the games and rooting for their team. Despite the scarcity of food and drinks, souvenirs, entertainment and, in some parks, decent rest rooms, these parks were all packed with people watching the baseball game and rooting for their team. Just a great baseball experience.
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