A West Hartford youth baseball team is keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Irma as it pummels the Caribbean. Irma is on track to make landfall in Cuba, where the team visited and played baseball back in April.
Their visit is part of an exchange program with a baseball team from Holguin, Cuba.
The team may not speak the each other's language very well, or have a full grasp on each other's culture, for that matter. But after two years of visiting each other’s countries, living with the host teams’ families, and playing many baseball games, the 12 and 13 year-old boys have become close.
“Our kids are definitely worried,” said Tim Brennan, one of the coaches for the West Hartford team, and president of Teen Cultures Connect, which sponsors the baseball exchange program. “They have such close relationships and bonds now that they care about their friends as if they're family.”
Brennan said the host families he’s been in touch with in recent days are boarding up their homes, and collecting fresh water and other essentials.
While Cubans have plenty of experience preparing for, and weathering hurricanes, Brennan is concerned that the homes of the Holguin players may not withstand a category 5 storm. Holguin is on the northeastern part of the island nation, a region that could be hit hard by Irma, depending on where the hurricane tracks.
“Their infrastructure is significantly less advanced than ours,” Brennan said. “They have homes that are made of concrete and wood frame, but they are old and deteriorated. So folks are very much in harm's way.”
Brennan said players from West Hartford have been reaching out to their friends in Holguin through social media, especially Facebook. While communicating electronically with players and coaches in Holguin is always dicey, with power and communications infrastructure likely to be affected by the storm, Brennan fears that it may take days for his team to hear how their Cuban friends fared during the hurricane.