In 1960, Rice head baseball coach Wayne Graham was a minor-league player in the International League when he went to Cuba to play against Havana Sugar Kings. This fall, the 80-year old coach is going back to the island country, and his Owls baseball team is going with him.
"It's going to be a real educational experience and growth experience. And the baseball, it will help us, too." says Graham. A lot, in fact. Graham cited the Indiana University baseball team that finished the season in the College Baseball World Series after a fall trip to the Dominican Republic he says.
In addition to an exhibition schedule of games against the Cuban Baseball Federation, the players will earn six-hours of college credit.
Professor Luis Duno Gottberg says the class requires two months of preparation before the trip: "They read about history, politics, the arts, the economics of Cuba and then they travel to the island to put into practice what they've learned."
According to the University's Study Abroad Office, about five percent of students participate in international programs each academic year. Athletes seldom go because their practice schedules create too many conflicts.
Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard says that's what makes this trip so unique.
"Most of the Rice student body I would wager has never been to Cuba, so the fact that our baseball players are getting to go to a place that nobody else has been to, I think is really special,” says Karlgaard.
Pitcher Glenn Otto was in Cuba earlier this summer as part of the U.S. Collegiate National Team. He’s excited for a return trip.
"I'm sure our professors are going to push us hard out there, that's how it is over here, very proud (to) be a Rice Owl academically and athletically. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm pretty excited about keeping a diary just because I'll be able to remember everything, I'll be able to look back and remember everything that we've done," says Otto.
The team will leave for Cuba on November 23rd and return to Houston on December fourth.