Nova Scotians making a difference through baseball

Ashley Thompson
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Keeshaun Such, of Hantsport, joined baseball coach Dennis Woodworth for a photo at the launch event for a memory book commemorating the first Nova Scotia–Cuba Goodwill Tour. Woodworth organized the tour, and invited Keeshaun to play on a select team comprised of players from across Nova Scotia. 

A Hantsport teen is among a select group of baseball players in Nova Scotia who left a lasting impact on a rural Cuban community earlier this year.

Keeshaun Such, 14, was one of 34 players named to the first Nova Scotia–Cuba Goodwill Tour team. The team’s objective was clear: make a positive difference in the lives of others through baseball.

The tour was about more than travelling the world to play some exhibition games in a foreign country.

“It was pretty amazing just seeing how the kids lived, and all the stuff they had to go through,” Keeshaun said.

The goodwill mission saw the Nova Scotian players donating 12 full-sized gear bags packed with equipment to baseball players in Matanzas, Cuba.

For Keeshaun, the humanitarian mission acted as a reminder that one should never take anything for granted. He remembers seeing the Cuban teams practicing on fields with no bases, but always  “playing with heart.”

Dennis Woodworth, the tour organizer and head coach of the select team, says the trip was meant to be a cultural experience offering insight into the game of baseball as it is played in the Caribbean.

“Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico are all hotbeds for baseball,” he said.

Woodworth, a coach with the Bridgewater Bulldogs and head coach of the provincial Under-15 team, selected players for the trip based on their sportsmen-like attitudes, positive personalities and passion for the sport.

The players, joined by six coaches, fundraised enough money to leave $15,000 to $20,000 of baseball equipment, and $1,000 worth of school supplies, behind in Matanzas when they left.

Before the goodwill tour, the best catcher in Matanzas didn’t even have a protective cup to wear.

“I’ve been involved in this game for 27 years as a coach. Nothing has ever come close to what we did there,” said Woodworth.

“They were just ecstatic.”

Woodworth, who works in the travel industry, intends to make the goodwill tour an annual event. Eight teams are already on board for next year.

“We’re going to use baseball as the vehicle to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Several of the 2014 tour participants reunited at the Hantsport Fire Hall May 3 for the launch of a Memory Book commemorating the inaugural Nova Scotia – Cuba Goodwill Tour. The books, donated by Friesens Printing, brought in $6,000 for the tour. Scotiabank in Hantsport agreed to match up to $3,000 in proceeds raised from the sale of the books. 

Organizations: Dominican Republic, Scotiabank

Geographic location: Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Matanzas Cuba Caribbean Puerto Rico Venezuela Mexico

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