Barrhead Orioles prepare 4,000 kilometre plus road trip

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Baseball season is long over but that doesn’t mean the Barrhead Midget Orioles don’t have work to do.

Over the off-season Orioles players, coaches and volunteers have kept busy preparing for what is the longest road trip in the organization’s history, a trip to Cuba in late January.

Traveling to Cuba under the moniker Team Canada for a seven-day good will tour, there they’ll play four exhibition games against local teams, including one intersquad game where players from Barrhead and Cuban players will play on the same teams.

The Orioles will also get the chance to run a mini baseball camp for underprivileged Cuban youth.

Orioles coach Doug Hanlan said while he and the team are excited about the baseball aspect of the trip, it is the humanitarian portion that is the most important — especially after many areas of the island nation were severely impacted by hurricane Irma.

As part of the tour the team will distribute more than 24 hockey bags full of baseball equipment, as well as assorted school supplies when the team visits a Grade 5 to 12 school with about 150 students. Acting as tour guides for what is being dubbed the Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour, will be either ex-major leaguers Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee [played for Boston and Montreal in the late 70s and early 80s]or Devon White [former Angel, Blue Jay, Marlin and Diamondback]as well as a translator.

“It is really a great experience for the kids that transcends baseball,” Hanlan said, adding he currently works with someone, who is in his 50s, who went on a similar trip when he was young. “He said as a human being it is the best feeling he has ever had. Going down there handing out equipment, teaching the boys baseball at the clinic. When you see a country and people in that big of need and being able to help, it sticks with you for the rest of your life.”

As for the baseball component, he said the Orioles would have their hands full.

“Cuba is well known for the quality of its baseball players,” Hanlan said, noting the country is always a contender for the Olympic gold medal.

However, before they go they must raise an estimated $25,000.

The funds will not only allow the team to travel to Cuba, but pay for the cost of shipping approximately 600 pounds of baseball equipment and school supplies.

Originally the team had planned on transporting more than double that amount, but it turns out baseball equipment, while it physically takes up a lot of room, isn’t that heavy.

“Two big hockey bags full of baseball equipment only amounts to about 70 pounds,” he said, adding the team figures they will be taking 24 hockey bags full baseball equipment.

To help lower expenses the team is looking for donations of new, or used equipment.

“Anything and everything from jerseys, cleats, helmets, catching equipment, bats and, of course, baseballs,” Hanlan said, adding pickup of items can be arranged.

The other item they are hoping to have donated is backpacks. The hope is that they will be able to give each student at the school a backpack filled with school supplies.

To raise money for the trip team members have done a variety of activities, including a hypnotist show in June.

“We have also had the prerequisite bottle drives, road cleanup and chicken-catching on two occasions,” he said, adding another chicken catching session is scheduled early next month. “Basically we wanted boys to have to work for the money so that way they can have the added pride of knowing that they really had to work to get there.”

Anyone wanting to donate baseball equipment or school supplies can contact Tammy Conklin at 780-206-6966 by Nov. 31.

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