PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Inside the Rays' clubhouse, the overriding sentiment was excitement regarding the team's trip to Cuba.Here's what the Rays were saying about the highly anticipated experience.• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIsRays visit CubaManager Kevin Cash:
"I think we're really going to appreciate it and enjoy it being a lot of fun
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Inside the Rays' clubhouse, the overriding sentiment was excitement regarding the team's trip to Cuba.
Here's what the Rays were saying about the highly anticipated experience.
• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs
Rays visit Cuba
Manager Kevin Cash:
"I think we're really going to appreciate it and enjoy it being a lot of fun for us. It kind of stinks it's only going to be a two-and-a-half-day stint. But we'll make the most of it.
"The President, all the politicians -- me personally, I'm most excited to see the fans. I remember in Boston, that thing they did with Luis Tiant [when he returned to Cuba]? They broadcast that thing over the Jumbotron, and it looked like it was awesome. So I'm excited to see how that plays out."
Steven Souza Jr.:
"It's exciting. It's cool, No. 1, to go play the game you love, that you've been playing your whole life, out of the country. Baseball has such a rich tradition there. It will be exciting to see the fans and the culture there, and how they respond to the game."
Any angst about going on the trip?
"I don't think so. I've been out of the country a lot. I've never been to a country like this. I'm just excited to see the culture. A lot of people have told me it's like turning back the clock and seeing those old-time cars. I'm not too nervous. It will be more nerve-wracking when we have 55,000 Cubans at the stadium yelling at you. I'm really excited to see the passion."
"It should be a fun time, having that experience of playing in front of their fans. We've heard that they're so passionate and so excited that we're coming, so, you know, we're excited."
Is there anything you could equate to this experience to?
"I played winter ball. I have seen the passion [in other Latin American countries]. But that was probably like 15,000. Having 55,000 [in Cuba] ought to feel like a playoff atmosphere."
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First base/outfield coach Rocco Baldelli:
"Truthfully, I think it's hard to know what to expect. During baseball season, sometimes guys would rather just relax when you go on a trip or the road. Guys will take it easy. But I think this will be a trip where a lot of us will be out and taking in as much as we possibly we can of the country and what it has to offer.
"I'm very happy to be going. When I heard about the trip originally, I was very excited. I've been counting the days."
"I think from a player's standpoint, it's a unique opportunity to spread baseball in a country that has a rich baseball tradition. I think it will be pretty cool. I think Cuban baseball fans are obviously passionate. They're passionate about baseball, which is awesome because I feel like all of us are passionate about baseball. I've never experienced it before, but I know they were saying that the stadium can fit, like, 55,000. So it should be pretty crazy, I hope.
"I don't think [the trip is] too inconvenient. The plane ride is shorter than some of our drives in Spring Training. I think it's such a great experience that I think we'll be energized. It's unique, and I think we feel honored that the Rays will be representing Major League Baseball."
"I'm very excited about it. There's going to be a lot of people. There's going to be history. The whole team is looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to getting to meet them, knowing their culture a little more. Getting to know where they came from."
"I am looking forward to it. You hear so much about how they love baseball, and just to see how much they really do love baseball."
You are an Alabama football fan, which is a pretty passionate fan base. Do you expect the Cuban baseball following to be more passionate than the Crimson Tide's?
"From what I hear, it's probably going to be Cuba. We'll see."
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"I think it's going to be one of those experiences I'll remember a long time. It's an opportunity that we probably won't get again, especially to play under the circumstances, just being that an American team hasn't gone there and played the Cuban National Team like the situation we have. And the pomp and circumstance, our coming along with the President. I think it's going to be a really neat experience."
"I've been looking forward to this since the beginning. For us as players in America, we're going to see a lot of new things, a country that loves baseball and has passion for baseball. It's going to be a great experience, to see the way they live. I heard a lot of great stuff about Cuba. I'm just looking forward to it."
"I think it's a unique opportunity, first to go to Cuba and second of all, to go during the middle of Spring Training. And to get out of the normal routine that we've been doing for more than a month now. Treat it like a regular-season road trip. Just something different.
"Not that you get complacent, but it's different than the regular season. There's not as much on the line day-in and day-out. We've been playing games for about three weeks now. I think it's a good time to get on the road, get to feel like what a plane feels like again. The normal routine. And get to experience a country that I don't think anybody in here has experienced before. We're all looking forward to it and want to put on a good show down there."
"I think everybody that's going is extremely excited to be going. Their tradition of baseball is something special to them. And for us to go down there and share it with them for a couple of days, it's going to be exciting. It's going to be fun. It will be a good experience."
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"I couldn't be more excited to have this opportunity to go over there and experience just the passion that ... they have for the game. Just the amount of love that they have.
"It's pretty groundbreaking to be able to go over there and experience that, to be able to share our traditions and stuff and get accustomed to theirs. Learn things. It's really going to be a good experience.
"The talent over there is incredible. To be able to say I saw those guys, I played against them, got to meet them and hang out with them -- that's a once in a lifetime experience."
"I really like going places that I've never been before. I've been on this planet 25 years and change. I've never been to Cuba, but I'm very excited to go over there. I have no clue about what to expect or anything like that, other than what people have told us.
"I've heard it's very old-school over there, and I enjoy that kind of atmosphere. I hear that '57 Chevys are the taxis. Things like that. So I think it's going to be really cool to see. And my Spanish is kind of legit. So I'm excited about trying that out. I think I'll surprise some of the people over there with some of the phrases and words I know."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.