Host families celebrate new friends from Team Cuba as exchange program comes to a close

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WEST HARTFORD -- For Tim Brennan, his wife Deb, son Jack and daughter Madeline, the past week has been, perhaps, the ultimate home game.

The Brennans are among about a dozen families in the area serving as hosts for a contingency from Team Cuba, which is made up of 17 people, including players, coaches, and translators from the island nation.

"It really has been a wonderful time for everyone involved," said Tim Brennan, the local lead of the USA/Cuba Goodwill Tour.

In April, Brennan brought a 70-person group of players, parents and coaches to Holguin, Cuba for a week of baseball and goodwill. "When you put kids together and allow them just to play and be kids, you're changing lives in particular because we're talking about kids from different cultures."

The Brennans have been hosting Jose Antonio Rodriguez Pozo, a talented 13-year old Cuban shortstop and his coach, Karel Garcia Zaldivar, a former Cuban pro league star.

"I've had a lot of fun playing basketball, video games, ping pong. I'd love to come back," Pozo said through an interpreter.

Zaldivar, who, like most of his group, is in America for the first time, said through an interpreter, "The way Connecticut has stepped up for this, the way they welcomed us here, I think I am taking something home that is really important."

From visits to Fenway Park, ESPN, the Mark Twain House and the Baseball Hall of Fame, it has been a full week of activities for Team Cuba.

Reynaldo Cruz Diaz, a Cuban interpreter and baseball journalist in Holguin said, "I believe the highlight of this trip have been staying with the American people, talking to them and sharing their culture."

Brennan added, "I know this is an experience no one will forget."