Father, son return to Cuba for baseball, family

- The Tampa Bay Rays are set to make a historic trip to Cuba that could help restore old connections. 

Decades before Castro took control in 1959, steamships ran between Tampa and Havana. Cubans who worked in the Tampa cigar factories would regularly go back to visit their families.

Now, a couple of  Cuban American Tampa natives plan to rediscover that connection. Mario Nunez, 55, and his 87-year-old father, Phil are booked to travel with a St. Petersburg group to see the Rays play in Cuba March 22. 

Both say they are big baseball fans - and both have visited Cuba in the past.

Mario was there in 2014. Phil's last visit was in 1947. He said he never thought he would live to see an opportunity to return.

"The most special moment is going to be when we're in the stands watching the game and I look over and say 'Pop we're here,'" Mario said through a smile.

Phil says his own father made regular trips between Tampa and Cuba to visit his brothers and nephews. Phil says the extended family stayed in touch before Castro, but then the ties faded. 

"He used to go every other week," Phil explained. "That's the sad part of it. We lost contact." 

He says he used to follow baseball in Cuba and in the United Sates.

"We're baseball people," he says. "I want to see if I can talk to some of those old folks about baseball."

Returning to Cuba after nearly 70 years, Phil may finally get the chance.

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