Fort Myers baseball company sets sights on Cuba

LEE COUNTY, Fla. – One local baseball company is hoping to cash in on the improving relationship between the United States and Cuba.

The U.S. and Cuba share a pastime, and for Carrera Sports, capitalizing on it isn’t just business; it’s personal.

Robert Coello isn’t a stranger to baseball. In fact, he’s played on a number of major league teams throughout the years. So it’s only fitting that when he thought about starting a company, manufacturing baseball equipment was right up his alley.

“As I was moving on, I was noticing it was getting a little bit too big for me in day-to-day operations,” Coello said.

So he dragged in his sister, so to speak, and around 2011, Fort Myers-based Carrera Sports was born.

“All players, all athletes, should have top-quality equipment available to them,” said Barbara Rodriguez, Coello’s sister.

When relations between the United States and Cuba started to improve, the two flew to Cuba to meet their extended family.

“So many of the youth in Cuba and the players are playing with broomsticks,” Rodriguez said, “(or) bats that are of no quality whatsoever.”

“I’ve seen them taping baseballs so it lasts longer,” Coello said.

What started out as a donation turned into much more.

“It was like a snowball affect,” Rodriguez said.

Carrera bats found the hands of professional baseball players in Cuba. The players tested them during a professional game at the Latino Stadium in Havana.

Heriberto Suarez, the director of Nacional de Béisbol Cuba who makes all the rules and guidelines was sold. For a company built in the U.S. by Cuban-Americans, the idea of connecting the two countries on a shared pastime was a grand slam.

Carrera Sports’ bats have the official stamp of approval in Cuba, but the guidelines by the U.S. State Department only allow temporary exportation of items that can benefit the lives of Cuban people. Carrera Sports hopes to coordinate youth baseball tournaments and clinics in Cuba in the near future.

By Morgan Frances, Wink News

July 15, 2015

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