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Baseball legend struggles with trip to Cuba

Orestes Destrade shares journey with Cuban friend from Tampa

Orested Destrade left Cuba for Miami when he was six. Mario Núñez is a Cuban-American born in Tampa, whose grandparents were from Cuba.  The two friends love Cuba and are passionate about baseball, but their associations with the island are different. 

They will be putting their differences aside to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play against the Cuban National team. Destrade and Núñez both get emotional when they talk about their trip.

But Destrade had more difficulty than Núñez with the decision of going to watch the game. For Destrade's family, a trip to Cuba under Castro's regime is just too painful.

"My great uncle who fought Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion was in prison and was going to be executed when I was born," Destrade said about the April 17, 1961 attack that some 1,400 Cuban exiles launched on the south coast of Cuba in a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro

On Tuesday, when President Barack Obama throws his historic pitch at the Estadio Latinoamericano of Havana, both national anthems will play. Destrade and Núñez will surely feel love for both of their countries -- the United States and Cuba. 

Destrade found success in the United States. He was part of the Marlins' inaugural team of 1993 and played for the Pirates and the Yankees. He will be in Cuba as a commentator for Fox Sports. Destrade said he still dreams with a "non-communist, freer Cuba."

The Núñez family didn't have the same experience as the Destrade family. Núñez's dad, Felipe Núñez, was last in Cuba in 1945, when Ramón Grau was Cuba's president and Fidel Castro was just starting law school. He was born to Cuban parents in Tampa's historic Ybor City. This will be his first time back. 

"My dad is 87," Núñez said. "Even though he was born here [Tampa], understand, that's a strong tie ... I think it's just so special."

 


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