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Cuban Little League coach disappears from Williamsport

A general view from the outfield during a Little League World Series game at Lamade Stadium on Aug. 20, 2023, in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(WISH) — A coach with Cuba’s first-ever Little League World Series team has gone missing, a tournament official confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday.

Jose Perez, a coach with the Bayamo Little League, left the Little League International Grove late Saturday night and never returned. Games are being played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“Little League International has communicated to all appropriate authorities and will ensure the Bayamo Little League team continues to have the best support and experience while in Williamsport,” said Kevin Fountain, a spokesperson for Little League International.

Fountain said information regarding the team arrival and what they were permitted to do were communicated directly to the team prior to arrival and during the manager-coach briefing prior to the start of the tournament.

“Teams and players are permitted to leave the complex with approval from Little League International,” he said. “Adult coaches and managers are permitted to swipe out of the grove on their own, however, at least one adult manager/coach listed on the eligibility affidavit must remain with the team at all times while the team is in the International Grove.”

This was the Cuban team’s first visit to the Little League World Series. The relationship between Little League and Cuba began in 2019 with the affiliation of 170 youth programs and an entry into the Little League World Series as part of the event’s expansion in 2021.

A three-year rotation was established between Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama in 2021. Under the rotation, two teams earn automatic bids to the tournament each year, and the remaining team competes for a spot in the Little League World Series through its regional tournament.

To get the Cuban national champs from Bayamo to this year’s tournament, Little League worked with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the State Department to get 20 visas for the Cuban team, plus coaches and baseball officials.

Wednesday marked Cuba’s first game in the Little League World Series, a 1-0 loss to Japan.

After defeating Australia 11-1 in the opening round of the elimination bracket Saturday, the Cubans lost 3-2 against Panama on Sunday and were eliminated from the tournament.

Even after being eliminated, teams typically stay at the Little League campus and play exhibition games for a few days around the area.