AS SUMMER wears on and August looms, thousands of Little Leaguers dream about the trip of a lifetime. For most that means traveling to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series, but a group of 11- and 12-year-old New Englanders have something else in mind. On Aug. 9 the Twin State Peregrines, an all-star team from eastern Vermont and western New Hampshire, will fly to Cuba for a 10-day tour. It's a trip few youth teams have taken since the U.S. trade embargo began in 1961. "There's this mysteriousness because [Cuba is] Communist," says Ted Levin, a Peregrines coach. "Yet we have baseball in common. I think our kids can connect with their kids, regardless of what our governments are thinking."
Levin, whose son Jordan is a Peregrine, has traveled to Cuba for his work as a photojournalist; two years ago he and John Carey, a Dartmouth professor of Latin-American politics whose son Sam also plays, hatched a plan for a team to visit the island. After 20 months—and three rejections—the U.S. Department of Treasury approved the trip in April, provided the Peregrines could prove their tour wouldn't benefit the Cuban economy. (The U.S. grants travel licenses to Cuba for public performance, exhibitions or athletic competition, but discourages U.S. citizens from spending money there.) The Peregrines received help from Vermont lieutenant governor Brian Dubie, who has helped broker deals to sell Vermont cows to Cuban farmers, and submitted an itinerary that has the kids staying at a Havana convent and playing Cuban youth teams each day. "We aim to make ourselves helpful to our hosts," Carey says. "If they are working to improve their field, we'd love the opportunity to help them out."
The Peregrines are looking for a little help themselves. Little League International wouldn't sanction the trip because of the embargo, so the team must raise $45,000 for travel costs and solicit donations of uniforms and equipment. In the meantime, the team is practicing for its own version of a World Series. "I've always wanted to play people in a different country," says second baseman Andrew Cawley, 12, of East Corinth, Vt. "I just know they love baseball there."