Cuba welcomed at Little League World Series and holds Japan to a run but gets no-hit in 1-0 loss

Japan's Taiga Tsutsui (12) slides back into second base as Cuba's Liusban Sanchez (12) looks at Japan's Yohei Yamaguchi (18), also at second, Wednesday during the fifth inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

Japan's Shuma Tachibana (10) gets back to first base next to Cuba first baseman Heikel Reyes during the fourth inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

SOUTH WILIAMSPORT, Pa. — A long way from home and playing in its first Little League World Series game ever, Cuba allowed just one hit Wednesday, but got no-hit in a 1-0 loss to Japan in an opening round game.

The Cuban team received a polite reception from the nearly 8,000 people in Volunteer Stadium, typical of the appreciation international teams receive at the LLWS. But the Cubans didn’t have many true fans.


Opposite the packed section of Japanese families sat a mere two rows along the first-base side adorned in the red, white and blue of Cuba.

As Japanese players embraced their parents after the win, most Cubans had only themselves for support. No families of players made the trip directly from Cuba to South Williamsport for the game, manager Vladimir Vargas said postgame.

“The kids are very proud of what they’ve done here knowing that their parents were watching the game on TV,” Vargas said through a translator. “So, the parents are very proud of that and are happy because the kids are playing here.”

Roberto Martinez lives in Las Vegas and was one of only two Cuban parents in attendance on Wednesday, Vargas said. Martinez said he hadn’t seen his son – also named Roberto – in “several months” and this week marked their reunion.

The younger Roberto led off and played center field for Cuba as his dad watched from the stands surrounded by many unfamiliar faces.

“I would like to have the opportunity to have more family members here but there’s no way for it to happen,” Martinez said through a translator.

Little League and the Federation of Cuban Baseball started talking about Cuba participating in the tournament during the Obama administration.

Even though they couldn’t be there to watch the team, several Cuban major leaguers wished the team well and said they’d follow the team’s progress.

The team received gear from San Diego Padres pitcher Adrián Morejón, as well as video messages from Raisel Iglesias of the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins first baseman Yuli Gurriel.

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