SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A coach with Cuba’s first-ever Little League World Series team has gone missing, a tournament official said Monday.
Bayamo Little League coach Jose Perez left the Little League International Grove late Saturday night and did not return, Little League International spokesperson Kevin Fountain said.
“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,” Fountain said.
This was the Cuban team’s first visit to the LLWS, and Perez’s disappearance came hours after Little League and the Cuban Baseball Federation extended their relationship to 2025.
The relationship between Little League and Cuba began in 2019 with the affiliation of 170 youth programs and an entry into the LLWS as part of the World Series expansion in 2021.
A three-year rotation was established between Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama in 2021. Under the rotation, two teams earn an automatic bid to the tournament each year, and the remaining team competes for a spot in the LLWS 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 LLWS, 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.
Perez served as one of two coaches for the Cuban team, which is managed by Vladimir Vargas.