GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Columbus Day is a holiday devoted to the memory of a man long-held to be the discoverer of America. This day is especially important at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay because this may well be one of the places where he made landfall. In honor of one of America’s greatest heroes, what better way is there to pay homage than by playing America’s greatest pastime; well not exactly baseball, but softball.
MWR hosted a seven game double elimination softball tournament that went all out with a raffle for the kids, and of course all the hot dogs one could care to eat.
From the previous MWR events, one would assume the activities are geared more to adults, but by the third game, it became obvious that this was a family event.
Children took delight in watching the softball games and the constant interruptions of raffle ticket call-outs and prize winners.
Devin Hord, first baseman for the Guardians, said he gave his raffle ticket to one of the kids since they didn’t get the chance to compete.
Mercenaries’ right fielder, Juan Borunda, said he was pleased just to be able to get out and play some softball.
The first day’s games played on as the sun beat down on the players’ heads.
Neither heat wave nor non-operational scoreboard could stop the players from playing their game; the umpire kept the crowd updated about what inning it was and what team was in the lead.
“Two to one, bottom of the fourth,” he called out.
He would continue to provide such updates from time to time.
However, it seemed as if the players did not need a scoreboard because teamwork was one of the greatest points on display.
During the game between the Mercenaries and Latinos, a member of the Mercenaries called out, “Three or two, come on guys let’s turn two.”
The hit was a groundball to the third baseman. After tagging his base, he threw to first for the third out of the inning.
It was a veritable marathon of softball for some of the teams. Some of them played as many as four games, while others left the field early after only two outings. By 6 p.m. the games were finally winding down and the original seven teams now stood at four. The tournament was over for the GTMO Latinos, the Man Bear-Pig and the Young Guns.
The next day proved to be more of the same old Guantanamo Bay weather: sunny and hot. The first game was underway by noon, and Fun Dip was the next team sent home. The second game of the day was the battle between the Maritime Safety and Security Team Nola and the Mercenaries, which was their first time playing against each other.
Watching baseball, one can realize that sometimes games are not measured in innings and outs; sometimes they boil down to contests of inches. This was certainly that type of game. The majority of the innings were either no hitters or runners left stranded.
“There is always something in my bag of goodies,” announced MWR employee Oshane Wynter. “The next winner will be 553401!”
This led to another delighted squeal from one of the kids, as they ran to collect their prize.
With little to no cool breeze, the players and fans alike were already dipping into their coolers filled with waters and Gatorades.
Through seven innings, the MSST Nola team managed to pick up the win. This sent the Mercenaries into the losers’ bracket and the MSST team to the championship game.
The next game started ten minutes later, which was only enough time to drink a glass of water.
Coming to the home stretch, the following game showcased the Guardians and the Mercenaries.
“Hopefully we’ll win,” said Hord.
Despite the skills showcased between two of the top three teams at the end, there must be a winner and a loser; in this case the Guardians.
This would bring us to the final games. It featured the Mercenaries playing a redemption game against the undefeated MSST Nola. This was the Mercenaries third game in a row. Despite being tired, they overcame the fatigue to defeat the MSST team.
“After that game, they kind of had our backs to the wall,” said MSST coach Scott Strong.
After a short break, the umpire announced the start of the next game, “Play ball!”
If the earlier matchups of the day had been measured in inches, this one may have been measured in centimeters. Both teams were exhausted by the games they played. Not to mention the unrelenting heat of Cuba, and the constant tug of nerves that games like this are apt to bring. Despite these factors and despite this being the third game of this contest between the top two teams, players seemed to still be in high spirits. They often called out jokes between the teams, and neither side lacked motivation from the crowd or their teammates.
“It was nice to see everybody coming out here together, you know, just having some fun,” said Wynter.
The game reached its conclusion with the MSST Nola team defeating the battle weary Mercenaries. Wynter then gathered both teams on the field for the t-shirt and trophy presentation ceremony. As the teams gathered for a picture, everyone was tired but still smiled and looked very happy.
“We recognize that people in hot zones don’t have all the MWR opportunities we have,” Strong mentioned afterwards. “We’re always thinking about them, so when we can come out and enjoy something like this, it really lets us know how fortunate we are.”
For those of you who did not participate (or maybe you did, but this event only served to feed your hunger for more softball) you might want to start looking for a team, as the next season begins on Oct. 14. If the notice for that is too short, look for an all-night one pitch tournament in November.