(Mobile, Ala.) Baseball is the national sport of Cuba, with MLB stars such as José Abreu, Yordan Álvarez, and Yuli Gurriel hailing from the island. What is less known is that the country’s baseball obsession and success can be traced back directly to Spring Hill College.
Next month, Cuba celebrates Spring Hill College and three of its graduates, Nemesio Guillo, his older brother Ernesto, and Enrique Porto who brought baseball from The Hill to Havana. Representatives from the city of Mobile, Havana’s sister city, will take part in a ceremony dedicating a ballpark built to honor the country’s baseball history. A marker describing the relationship between Spring Hill College and baseball in Cuba will serve as the centerpiece of the park. Blake Stein, a 2005 graduate of Spring Hill will represent the College. He is a former pitcher and MLB player and currently serves as an Assistant Principal at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School.
“As a new addition to the Spring Hill community, I have enjoyed learning about the almost 200-year history of the College and meeting our incredible students,” said Spring Hill’s President, Mary H. Van Brunt, PhD. “This is another example of how the College and its alumni have had such a profound and global impact through their experience on the Hill.”
After graduating in 1864, The Guillo brothers headed back home and the sport they learned at Spring Hill spread quickly across Cuba. In 1868 they founded the country’s first baseball team, the Habana Base Ball Club. The sport had become a large part of the culture not just for the game but for what it represented to Cubans, both nationally and internationally.
After forming the nation’s first baseball team, the duo, along with the first Latin American professional baseball player in the United States Esteban Bellán, played against a group of American sailors, which ended with the Cubans triumphant after delivering a “sovereign beating” to the hometown opponents. Word spread of the victory in the country, as did enthusiasm for the sport.
In addition to aiding the beginning of Cuban baseball, Spring Hill College boasts other key engagements with baseball history. Home to the oldest continually-used baseball field in the country, Sims-Galle field has hosted baseball games since the post-Civil War era. Legends like Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, his brother Tommie Aaron and Tommie Agee have all graced its diamond. Today the historic field hosts future professional baseball stars as the home of the Spring Hill Badgers baseball team.
ABOUT SPRING HILL COLLEGE:
Founded in 1830, Spring Hill College is the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast and the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Spring Hill combines the Jesuit tradition of excellence in education and a commitment to caring for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – with innovative educational experiences. Located in Mobile, Ala., Spring Hill’s mission is to form leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life. As a result, Spring Hill students are engaged, inspired and transformed by their experiences.