“Cuba Loves Baseball”: National Geographic photographer talks art, culture, baseball

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A report by Madison Noordhoek for the UMKC’s University News.

Whether it be a bag of peanuts, an iconic bobble head or a 6-4-3 double play, baseball has long been not only America’s favorite pastime, but also Cuba’s.

American photographer Ira Block has visited Cuba several times as a National Geographic photographer. He decided to return for a three-year period to capture baseball’s cultural influence in Cuba. Block shared his work at Kansas City’s Negro League Baseball Museum Saturday afternoon.

“I wanted to document how the sport permeated and influenced Cuban culture,” Block said. “I wanted to show the way that people relate to the sport and then turn it all into an upbeat book. There’s so much negativity going on in the world today and the way sport affects culture is very uplifting and positive. The people there truly love the game.”

Baseball is an integral part of the history and evolution of Cuban culture, as it created a sense of community among those who played. Despite the extended time period Block spent on this photography project, the artist seemed to have no trouble finding his subjects.

“This is one of the easiest projects I ever did. All I had to do was ask where they were playing ball,” Block reveals. “I was just a wandering gypsy following the ball.”

Block spoke about the genuine enjoyment of the game among Cuban culture. Unlike the Major Leagues Baseball that dominates American culture, Cuba teams don’t have millions of dollars. They simply play to play.

Because of this different mindset, there is not as much pressure, particularly on adolescent players, in regards to scouting or admittance to baseball academies.

The artist admitted to having one struggle during his photographic series: bringing it to an end.

“It’s always hard to end this sort of project because you always think there’s something more, something you didn’t get,” Block said.

“Cuba Loves Baseball” by Ira Block book singing is closed, but can be purchased online. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located in the 18th & Vine District in Kansas City, Missouri.

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