Editor's note: Arundel High baseball coach Bernie Walter recently returned from Cuba, where he coached the U.S. Junior National baseball team at the World Championships. The U.S. team, which consisted of 18 of the best 17-and 18-year-old players from throughout the country, finished third behind Cuba and Taipei with a 6-2 record. The following is the third of three parts of the journal he kept about his experiences in Cuba.
DAY 10, SEPT. 1
This afternoon we play Venezuela, and then we have been invited to the U.S. Intersection for a reception. One of the Marines is returning home, so it is a going-away party, too. Our players cannot drink, and the embassy has been informed. The invitation is from Officer David Evans. The house is in the embassy section of Havana.
The Venezuela game was closer than expected. We came back to win, 6-1. The first run was the result of three errors, and on the second we executed a first-and-third double steal to take the lead. Our base running was awful, but we kept extending the lead a little at a time.
Aaron Knieper went nine innings. He struggled early but became more effective as the game went on. He scattered eight hits, while walking two and striking out seven.
At 8 p.m. we arrived at the marine's house. Diplomats from Britain, Switzerland and several other countries were there with their families.
The potluck dinner was excellent. The atmosphere was like going to a neighbor's house on a Saturday night. We could almost close our eyes and believe we were in the USA.
The players had an American variety of activities to do. Some shot pool, others played air hockey and most watched ESPN. ESPN carried the 13-0 Nebraska win over Baylor.
We were warned that the house was bugged like everything in Cuba. The boys couldn't believe that anyone would care about what they said.
As we left everyone was cheering, "Go get em' guys . . . beat Cuba." It was a nice feeling to know some people here care.
On the bus on the way back we listen to the Cuba-Taipei game. At the end of seven, Taipei was winning, 1-0. Then it choked and Cuba won. This is the way we wanted it. We wanted to play the Cuban team at Latino with 55,000 fans for the World Championship.
DAY 11, SEPT. 2
Up at 8:30 a.m. Another 10:30 a.m. game at Latino. Canada is starting a right-handed pitcher, so we are going with the left-handed hitters. Lefty Casey Whitter will pitch for us.
Casey struggled early. It was 1-1 in the third when a thunderstorm hit. It rained heavily, but the field was ready to be played on 10 minutes after the rain stopped.
During the rain delay, Canada's head coach had an anxiety attack. Both trainers were called because many people thought it was a heart attack. He went to the hospital and later returned. He is OK.
Jay Powell hit a three-run home run to lead a very quick attack. We only got six hits and won 5-1. This guarantees us the bronze medal. Whitter was very effective after the rain. He pitched nine innings. Paul Petrulis led us with three hits. After the game, we went to the Diplo Club to swim.
Tonight we'll watch and scout Taipei vs. Venezuela.
There is an outdoor advertising sign we pass daily. It shows a piece of coal changing into a diamond under a caption that our interpreter loosely translated as "from nothing to perfection," referring to Cuba.
Now our goal is to change the bronze medal into silver then gold. We have 100 hours left here.
DAY 12, SEPT. 3
Happy birthday, Bernie. We have 88 hours left.
Bad news: Planes leave on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. We can't leave early. Also, Mike Schiefelbein is sick. He is doubtful for tomorrow. This really messes up our pitching. Mike went to the hospital and received several penicillin shots.
Taipei was ready for us mentally.
Scott Spiezio and Paul Petrulis hit solo home runs. Taipei tied the game in the eighth inning when its right fielder hit a solo home run. We scored in the bottom of the eighth to go ahead, 4-3, on a wild pitch.
In the top of the ninth, Andy Lorraine relieved Jose Prado. He got the first batter, then walked the second who scored on a double to the left-field corner. Willie Adams relieved and served up a double, a wild pitch and a squeeze play. Taipei 6, USA 4.
In the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Bruce Thompson struck out. Tony Morrillia walked. Petrulis flew out to right field. Shawn Green doubled to left. Jay Powell hit a long fly ball that curved around the foul pole. The umpire from Holland called it foul. Both Morrillia and I thought it was fair. A wild pitch made it 6-5. Powell grounded out on a well-hit ball.
At 4 p.m. we had a team meeting to talk about our focus and to review the game.
After much evaluation, it appears we must beat Cuba to win the silver medal, then again on Wednesday for the gold. If we don't win, it looks like the bronze.
DAY 13, SEPT. 4
Everyone slept in late this morning.
Much of the morning Jim Fuller, Ray Korn and I went over scouting reports on Cuba. With Schiefelbein out, we need a superior effort.