HANCOCK, Maine — Down East met down south on Tuesday — way down south.
Albert and Barbara Harmon played host at a cookout for the Aruban baseball team from San Nicolas, their coaches and the family and friends traveling with them. The team is in Maine to compete in the Senior League World Series, which began Saturday in Bangor.
The Harmons greeted the 50 or so Arubans as friends, even though they had never met before.
The couple has been traveling to Aruba, an island in the southern Caribbean, twice a year since 1998 and have become very fond of the island and its people.
“They are the warmest, friendliest people in the world,” Albert Harmon said. “We just fell in love with the people.”
They put together the event by phone without ever meeting any of the team members or the adults.
“When we heard Aruba was going to be in the Senior League championships, we started calling friends to see if there was a way we could connect with them,” Barbara Harmon said.
They were put in touch with Ruth Melfor, the official scorer for the Aruban team and over the past two weeks, through a steady stream of phone calls, made arrangements for the get-together, which featured some Maine traditions such as red hot dogs, lobster rolls, and blueberry and strawberry desserts.
“It has been wonderful,” Melfor said. “Everything is nice, the people are nice.”
The team drove from Boston to Bangor, and Melfor said their first impression of Maine was that it was “chilly.” She claimed the team had brought the recent hot weather with them.
For many, this is their first trip to the U.S.
“It’s a beautiful place,” said 16-year-old catcher Jair Bogaerts. “It’s big.”
Aruba is an island 20 miles long and 6 miles wide, and San Nicolas is the second-largest city on the island, a different atmosphere from the rural town of Hancock.
“It doesn’t take so long to get from one place to the next,” said coach Milton Croes, who with manager Gregory Manuel and coach Norman Silvania direct the 16-member team of 15- and 16-year-olds.
Croes had visited the U.S. before, in 1982, when he played in the Senior League World Series in Gary, Ind. The team from Aruba finished fifth that year, he said, and the team hopes to do better than that this year.
“After 27 years, to come back again, it’s very nice,” Croes said. “I can’t explain the feelings.”
He has been involved in Senior League baseball over the years, always hoping to bring a team to the championship.
“We’ve been so close to the championship,” Croes said. “We’re always fighting to bring the kids back here. To win would be a big boost for baseball in Aruba, for the kids and for the community on the island.”
The outing to the Harmons’ is the only sightseeing the team plans to do. Their focus is all on the games.
“We didn’t come to see anything,” Bogaerts said. “We came to win the championship.”
The Arubans, who are the Latin American champions, were off to a good start and won their first game on Sunday, 8-4. The championship game is Saturday.