Baseball tourism is already big business in Cuba, and officials are sweetening the pot by announcing a plan to renovate Palmar del Junco, a historic facility where the first recorded organized game in the country was played in 1874.
The historic game was played Dec. 27, 1874, in Pueblo Nuevo, Matanzas (located about 70 miles west of Havana), with Matanzas taking on the Habana Baseball Club. Habana won the match by a lopsided 51-9 margin in a game called because of darkness in the seventh inning. Famous Cuban baseball players like Martin Dihigo, José de la Caridad Méndez (The Black Diamond), Gaspar "El Curro" Pérez, Félix Isasi, Wilfredo Sánchez, Rigoberto Rosique and Lázaro Junco played on the field over the years.
The ballpark is still a working facility, serving as a provincial academy for young players. The plan is to upgrade the facility with a completed museum, information center, cafeteria, conference room and baseball store. It's not a done deal: authorities are seeking investors to help fund the project.
As mentioned, baseball is a big tourist attraction in Cuba, with plenty of fans from around the world descending on the small country to tour ballparks and watch pro games. Our John Moist toured the ballparks out Cuba a few years ago; you can read his coverage here. Alas, his tour didn't cover Palmar del Junco or the major baseball facility in the area, Victoria de Giron. We'd recommend reading John's piece for a great look at how baseball is regarded in Cuba and why this project makes perfect sense for the country.
The above image of Palmar del Junco dates back to 1901.
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