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We have been escorting Americans to Cuba since 1998.
We have conducted many trips using approved licenses for sporting exhibitions, people to people travel, religious groups and educational events.
During this time we have come to know Cuba as a safe, friendly, exciting and most intriguing country.
We can easily say that it is our favorite place in the World and we love sharing it with others.
From sports to music to art to culture Cuba has it all.
President Obama recently gave instructions to OFAC to make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. This is tremendous news. Tourism is not yet approved, and all travel at this time is strictly governed and regulated by OFAC.
The information provided here is a straight forward interpretation and overview of President Obama’s important December 17, 2014 initiative.
On January 16, 2015 the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published regulations making Cuba travel much easier for Americans. Nearly everyone can now visit Cuba without a license as long as they abide to all of the regulations and procedures covered in the reg's. There are now 12 categories of travel that do not require a license:
1) People-to-people educational exchanges in Cuba.
2) Professional research or attending professional meetings in Cuba relating to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise.
3) Educational activities in Cuba for US university, college and secondary school faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff can visit Cuba independently to research and prepare for student trips.
4) Religious activities and projects in Cuba.
5) Humanitarian activities and projects in Cuba.
6) Attending public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, and athletic and other competitions.
7) Business visits for exportation and importation of telecommunications and internet hardware and services, and exportation of agricultural products.
8) Support for the Cuban people by NGOs, private foundations and educational institutions.
9) Visiting a relative or family member in Cuba.
10) Journalistic activities in Cuba, official US government business, and visits to Cuba by foreign diplomatic staff and NGOs residing in the US.
USA - Cuba Sports and Cultural Exchanges Expeditions is authorized to engage in trips to Cuba which conform to the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations.
We are authorized to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.
We conducted our first People to People Cultural Exchange in Trips in 1998 under President Clinton and have been doing so ever since.
Background: USA- Cuba Sports and Cultural Exchanges
As a long time provider of baseball and sports teams to Cuba since 1998, we have enjoyed a harmonious relationship with Inder, Cuba Deportes, and Havanatur. In addition we have come to see and experience the Cuban culture, lifestyle and baseball at it’s finest in Cuba and we have become a long time supporter and fan of Cuba.
USA - Cuba Sports under previous Owner Bob Weinstein and President of Baseball Operations Jimmy Breslin was very proud to provide the first and original People to People Exchange Trips and Sports Exhibitions to Cuba from the United States in 1998 and 1999 as USA-Cuba Sports Experiences. The camaraderie, sportsmanship, trust and lifetime friendships forged on those intital trips have served us all well and layed the groundwork for many successful sports and cultural trips which followed bringing us into 2015.
We have brought both softball and baseball teams to Cuba on many occassions with each trip resulting in success for all parties concerned.
Our next sports trip to Cuba is planned for June 26, 2015 where Lic. Miguel Acosta Serrano of the Federacion Cubana De Softbol and Dr. Pedro A. Urquia Montano of Cubadeportes has invited and will together arrange for us to participate in a friendly competition prior to the 2015 Pan American Games in Canada.
These games will feature select Division 1 Softball players selected by Martin Radford of The Beach League and select HS all stars from Florida selected by Dave Occhialini from Bishop Moore HS. These players will compete in Havana against Cuba's National Softball Team just prior to them playing in the 2015 Pan American Games which will be held in Toronto, Canada
Why Cuba ?
Quite simply, there is no place else like Cuba.
Previous to our Cuba experience, our coaches had the pleasure of traveling in Europe, Asia and South America as tourists and coaches. But, when we made our first trips to Cuba in 1998, it was as the first ever Ambassadors on the Official People to Peope Exchange Programs created by President Clinton. From this experience, the vision was created moving forward to provide a baseball and educational experience for our student/athletes using Cuba as the canvas and backdrop.
Visiting Cuba is a rare opportunity and we saw the potential benefits from both a baseball and an educational perspective to broaden our players awareness of the world around them. Cuba has long been an International powerhouse baseball nation and we thought our players could learn from that, and as Havana was the number one city in the New World with droves of history hidden within it........... Well, What a great combination we thought.
We found out quickly that this experience represented so much more than what we had envisioned. The culture and baseball experiences we shared were so powerful, so compelling and so awesome that Cuba literally changed us forever and the vision has grown with it.
Yes, There are many wonderful places to visit in the world with beautiful sites, but is is a rare baseball player that can experience the rare blend of competitiveness and sportsmanship of Cubans and come home without his baseball soul being touched.
We now return to Havana, Cuba numerous times per year with our friends, families and teams to enjoy and experience what truly is a mesmerizing city in a remarkable country during what can only be described as a unique time in history. Havana is virtually in a time warp shaped by politics that are rapidly disappearing. Don't miss it !
I have heard many an experienced world traveler remark that La Habana is their favorite city in the world.
Located only 90 miles from the USA, it is another world quite different than you have ever seen. Words and photos can not describe the architecture, museums, restaurants, beaches, and vibrant culture as they are both mesmerizing and hypnotic.
However, its the people of Cuba that really set it apart. They are enthralled with Americans and they will make you feel at home, safe and as part of the family.
Visiting Cuba is definitely a bucket list item.
Cuba is without a doubt safe, fun, entertaining, comfortable, accomodating, educational, and extremely competitve if you are a visiting athlete looking for a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Cubans are fascinated with their sports culture and focus on developing talent from a young age with sophisticated and well organized sports programs from the youth level to the Olympic level.
Baseball is the primary passion in Cuba and as such they have organized youth teams for all ages in virtually every neighborhood of the island. To be a baseball coach for a youth team is a prestige and an honor only earned thru years of dedication and training.
Many of their coaches are referred to as Professor because they have earned their masters and PHD’s in the University system.
Top 10 Florida Baseball specializes in bringing amateur baseball and softball teams to Cuba, traveling under the umbrella of licenses issued and approved by the US Treasury and OFAC regulations.
Our specialty is Cuba.
En nuestros corazones estamos Cubano, which means “in our hearts we are Cuban”.
Over the years, our principals have made over 300 visits to Cuba, visiting virtually every province, city and tourist area of the country.
Accordingly, we know the in’s and outs of Cuba.
We can customize your trip to fit your sports expectancies and your budget.
Quick Overview of How a Team Trip is Organized for Cuba
From the US side - The baseball events in Cuba are licensed exhibition events which must conform to the current OFAC regulations in use by the Federal gov’t.
Once we are set up with the licenses, we go to work with the approved air carriers who have contracts from the US gov’t to fly into Cuba.
From the Cuba side - All sporting events In Cuba are controlled by the Gov’t. This includes field permits, coaching positions, and all practice and game events in every sport at every age bracket. There is no travel baseball or independent baseball organizations operating in Cuba. All of the fields, all of the coaches and all of the teams fall under the gov’t umbrella.
All foreign teams that are visiting Cuba need to work directly with the appropriate Cuban gov’t agencies to secure hotels, transportation and venue approvals.
The Cuban gov’t sets up various agencies for each separate component.
We have been working with these Cuban gov’t agencies for 17 years so let us handle the details while you compete and enjoy Cuba.
Baseball Opportunities in Cuba
The Cubans can accomodate us at any age level and at any skill level.
They can arrange clinics, practices, exhibition games, tournaments and barnstorming schedules.
We can play on sand lot fields, municipal fields, minor league stadiums and we have played in their professional stadiums many times.
So..... We have a few options depending on how good our team is and what the coaches and parents want to experience.
We can play in Havana which has 15 municipalities, each with an Allstar team.
Or we can travel to the outlying provinces and cities which encompasses literally a few hundred all star teams spread across the 780 mile long island.
Or....... If your team is good enough, and our trip coincides with their training schedule, usually July or late summer, we can ask for an opportunity to face their National Team at the 12, 14, 16 18 and 21u levels.
If your team is already strong, and you have proved yourself in showcases and tournaments and you want to face a national team, we recommend adding about 6 elite pitchers and going 3 deep at the catching position.
But, be prepared because the competition will be stiffer than anything you have faced in the USA. Years ago, the #1 team from California came with a 56-4 record and got 10 run ruled 6 times consecutively.
Traveling with less than a high calibre 12 man pitching staff will put you at a great disadvantage. Only bonafide USA national team level players can hang with them.
The Cuban teams train to win, plan to win, expect to win and then execute.
Our Relationship with Cuba
In 1997, President Clinton decided that he wanted to normalize relations with Cuba so he started a movement within his administration to create a People to People exchange program. It was decided that baseball was the common denominator and the best way to get the ball rolling in a non-political fashion much like Nixon used ping pong to normalize relations with China.
With this in mind, in 1998 the very first People to People trips were organized as baseball clinics under the direction of Bob Weinstein and USA Cuba Sports, featuring Jimmy Breslin, Bill Sudakis an ex MLB player and Mike Spiers of American Baseball Development. As American professional baseball coaches promoting good will and friendship we conducted youth clinics at Latino American Stadium in Havana, Cuba. We were given access to the Cuban National 12u and 14u teams which was quite a privelege and honor. These baseball clinics were the first sports exhibitions and People to People events held. They were open to the public and well attended free of charge, setting the tone for all future events. These first of kind clinics received widespread news coverage both in Cuba and the Latin American news outlets, but generally were overlooked stateside.
As a result of our success in developing positve relations, US gov’t policy changes occured in 1999 under President Clinton, which opened the door to legal travel to Cuba for Americans through people-to-people exchange programs, with the goal of enhancing cross-cultural relations between Americans and Cubans. In 1999, our gov’t issued a number of travel providers licenses to conduct additional People to People Exchange, designating a number of acceptable categories.
We are very proud to have been the original pioneers of this important movement which has now reached a new level of normalization under the Obama Administration.
These baseball clinics were a rousing success paving the way to an official invitation from the Cuban gov’t for the first American youth team to compete in Cuba.
In December of 1999, a 14 U All Star team from Boynton Beach Florida made history being the first USA team to visit Cuba in almost 40 years. Under the direction of Bob Weinstein, the coaching staff of Jimmy Breslin, Jim Howard, John Ochocki, and Eric Call we made the brave and historic journey not knowing exactly what lay ahead.
We went as ambassadors of the USA first, and as ambassadors of our revered game of baseball second.
What happened on arrival was nothing short of amazing and unbelievable.
We were overwhelmed with good will and friendship from the moment we arrived. The Cubans greeted us long lost relatives and gave us the red carpet treatment every where we went. We shook hands, signed autographs and received dozens of hugs and kisses from grateful Cubans who were giddy to see the Americans come ashore. On 3 occassions our games were played in front of thousands of Cuban fans as the local school children were released early to witness the historic event. The Cubans arrived in droves, curious to see how the Americans could play their favorite game of baseball. For the most part, the Cubans handled us prretty well but we managed to squeeze two victories out of our 5 game barnstorming set. We visited Regla, Guanabacoa, Arroyo Naranja, Cerro, and Ciudad Deportivas. Our boys were celebrities in every sense of the word everywhere we went.
Our corporate sponsor Steve Brown graciously supplied the Cuban players and coaches with new uniforms, bats and balls while Jim Storey our Christian Missionary delegate supplied school and medical supplies to the local neighborhoods.
Adding a heightened flavor of excitement was the fact that the Elian Gonzales saga in Miami took a turn for the worse near the end of our trip when his Miami relatives refused to give him up. This sudden turn placed our gov’t and peoples at direct odds and it took on a frenzy of it’s own quite quickly.
The world press corps were framing the USA as a “bully nation” and here we were in a country that was becoming polarized quicky between the good will they felt for us and the ill feelings for our gov’t in Washington. The Elian Gonzalez saga was now the lead story for much of the world on a daily basis and our team was now center stage as Ambasadors in Havana. At one point our bus was forced to naviagte thru a crowd of over 100,000 Cubans who were staging a rally on the Malecon in front of our Embassy demanding the safe and immediate return of Elian. Tensions were very high both on the street and in our bus as they were in Havana, Miami and Washingtonon. To say that polite protocol, sportsmanship, and steel nerves were the key ingredients would be an understatement.
Yes, it was an extremely exciting and important baseball adventure which received much press coverage in both countries with feature articles in Sports Illustrated, and the front page of the Palm Beach Post. Our successful trip was chronicled daily by all of the Florida news stations and newspapers which greeted us on arrival at the airport, bus station and our homes.
Our boys were celebrities in both countries and they loved every minute of it.
It has been a love affair for us since that original trip, as we have returned dozens of times with teams of all ages playing in all types of competitive venues. Each trip has been a resounding success with all participants coming away with memories that will last a lifetime.
Such is Cuba.
The Process of Organizing a Team Trip
Here is an overview of the process once a Team expresses a desire to go to Cuba to play in a baseball or softball event.
Top 10 will supply the team with a verbal overview of what is possible in terms of licensing, event venues, general pricing, and general information based on previous events of a similar nature.
Generally we would discuss:
Soft dates 8 -12 months in advance
The age and skill level of the team
The type of venue they would like to participate in - Games, Tournaments, Clinics or Barnstorming
# of games desired - daily format
What level of hotel and travel accomodations the group might desire
The peripheral schedule desired which includes touring and recreational activites
General pricing for the group based on a minimum # of travelers
Timeline for deposits, payments, paperwork and passports.
OFAC Licensing requirements
Departure city options
At that point the coaching staff, boosters, and key administrators would need to reflect internally and to discuss among themselves on the project feasibility. Usually the key components which a team has to deal with as it becomes finding the right time to go for the group, financial considerations, and how to best organize the trip.
Once the group thinks we are moving forward, Top 10 Florida Baseball contacts the Cuban Baseball authorities to explore the baseball schedule and venue component.
Once the dates and venues are agreed to, we would then submit the information for a final price quote from the Cubans on hotel, food, tour packages and transportation.
Then we confirm seat availability and pricing for our travel dates with licensed carriers for Cuba.
Once these travel components are in sync, Top 10 develops a Team Event Contract which includes dates, pricing, payment schedules, conditions and terms.
For example, within 30 days of receiving our quote from Cuba, we must receive the signed contract with a deposit of $100 per person (18 person minimum) to secure the venue dates and quotes.
Event Contract Pricing might require a larger size group for discounts etc but the initial deposit requires a group of 18 or more.
The deposit money is for the group and we can add or delete travelers as we move forward.
Over the course of the following months we will continue to communicate and organize each aspect of the trip so that each member of your group is fully briefed and organized and ready to go.
We will assist you in almost every function of planning the trip.
We will supply you with every form and application needed to plan the trip.
We will supply you with written documentation of your licensed trip.
We will post information on our web site so that your travelers can access trip information.
We will meet you at the airport and guide you thru the check in, security and boarding procedures.
We will escort you to Cuba.
We will guide you thru immigration, baggage claim, customs and guide you to the bus.
We will check you into the hotel and conduct a welcome briefing.
We will escort you to the baseball venues on a daily basis.
We will escort you to the airport on your outbound flight and quite possibly escort you back to the USA.
If there is anything else that you need from us let us know. We will be glad to help.
16U Florida Pride - 2002
The 2002 Florida Pride featured 3 future first round picks.
Chris Volstad of the Florida Marlins- 16 u Palm Beach Gardens HS
Dennis Raben of the Seattle Mariners - 15 u player - Grandview Prep
David Adams of the Yew York Yankees - 15 u player - Grandview Prep
And 4 players selected later in the draft:
Wade Korpi of the Florida Marlins 16u player- Santaluces HS
Matt Sheehy of the Pittsburgh Pirates - 15u player - Boynton Beach HS
Chris Armstrong of the Washington Nationals - 14u player - Owasso HS, Oklahoma
Steven Vento of the Chicago Cubs -16u player - Boynton Beach HS
COACHES MIKE ADAMS , JIMMY BRESLIN AND DONALD GUNN ASSEMBLED AN AWESOME SQUAD WHICH INCLUDED 10 FUTURE MLB DRAFT SELECTIONS.
LED BY RHP DONALD GUNN TEAM USA WON 5 STRAIGHT AFTER LOSING THE OPENING POOL GAME TO CUBA.
TEAM USA FOUGHT BACK WINNING 4 STRAIGHT GAMES ONLY TO MEET CUBA IN THE GOLD MEDAL GAME. ON 2 DAYS REST DONALD GUNN HELD CUBA SCORELESS FOR 4 INNINGS AND HE LED THE OFFENSIVE CHARGE WITH 3 DOUBLES AND 4 RBIS IN THE BIG GAME.
TEAM USA WON THE GOLD MEDAL GAME 6-4.
Head Coach Mike Spiers
Asst. Coach Jimmy Breslin
Delegate: Mike Adams
Trainer John Wirnsburger
Statistician Mike May
WE PLANNED FOR GOLD - A DISAPPOINTING LOSS in the semi final game TO CUBA PUT US IN THE BRONZE MEDAL GAME
CUBA BEAT VENEZUELA for the gold
Bronze medal winners VERSUS BRAZIL
6-1 OVERALL Record
team USA 14U included 7 future Major League Draft picks
Michael Burgess - 1st round - Chicago White Sox
Hank Conger - ist round - Californai Angels - 2006
John Tolisano - ist round - Toronto Blue Jays - 2nd round - 2007
David Christensen - ist round - Rockies - 2007
Thomas Hickman - 2nd round Florida Marlins - 2006
Chris Armstrong -
Matt Adams - Yale University
michael BURGESS LED THE TEAM WITH 2 HOME RUNS
chris Armstrong led the team in pitching with a 2-0 record
Brandon May led the team in hits with 13
AJ Wirnsburger led the team in rbis with 14