MLB-Cuba: the courtship goes on

Since December 17, I have heard several times they are already discussing the possibility that Major League franchises travel to Cuba, with the aim of completing their spring training or perform exhibition games in the archipelago.

Some even ventured to predict that this year the powerful organizations set up their camp on Cuban soil, an issue that ultimately fell through, although the idea is still alive and can charge much strength in the not too distant future.

This was made clear by Tony Clark, executive director of the Players Association Major League Baseball, who addressed the issue in depth on Saturday after annual union meeting with the Cleveland Indians, led by Terry Francona .

Clark, retired with 15 years of experience in the MLB, admitted that there were talks this offseason about the possibility of having spring training games in Cuba, but very little time and no one knew for sure what the resumption of relations between the two countries could mean.

“We were not able to put the pieces in play,” admitted the manager, adding that it is perfectly conceivable holding a spring training game in Cuba, although it is difficult to predict how long it takes.

Francona, also present at the conversation with Tony Clark, agreed with the matter and said he would love to go to Cuba with his club. “I think it would be fine,” said, aware of the baseball climate that exists on the island, where he was in the late 70s with a US national team.

“My father (John Patsy Francona) was there in 1956, and told me that the Cuban League was almost better than the majors, with four teams in Havana at the time. He won a prize and came home with a black Cadillac. That’s not winter ball I remember, “said the mentor of the Indians.

Already powerful franchises like the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles expressed interest in traveling to the island, although in reality there are no immediate plans for a game or any other exchange, much has been speculated, even the Secretary of State John Kerry, Red Sox fan, has had part in the talks.

None of this has been seen, but the interest is real and it would not be unreasonable MLB establishes as international priority its link with Cuba, given the geographical proximity and natural passion for Cuban baseball fans.

“There’s intrigue, there is interest. I can only say the same thing that a lot of people, I am very interested to see what happens, “confessed Clark, who said that at present it is very important that players understand the need to expand the baseball as an international sport, and in this sense Cuba plays an important role, especially now with the opening of a new process in the relations with the United States.

“If you look at any clubhouse now we see what our international and global game, with men from many countries. Cuba is a piece that nobody really knows, “said the manager, clearly referring to the tremendous impact that the Cubans players if a channel to the majors are established without much risk to humans.

“It seems that every Cuban who comes here is contributing significantly to our sport, and that is beneficial for all,” said the manager, who highlighted the 19 Cubans who played last season in the majors, a figure that could rise to the level of Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Of course, the dream of all lovers of baseball in Cuba is that our players do not have to undergo the most distressing circumstances to fulfill the dream of playing in the majors, just what happened to Yasiel Puig and Jose Fernandez for just mention two, the first wrapped in a dangerous web of trafficking, and the second known for his dark sea crossing to the United States.

As history of major league teams in Cuba, Roberto González Echevarría, historian, professor of literature at Yale University and author of “The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball”, places the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 in our country performing the preseason, partly due to racism samples that had been found in Florida’s first black player in the majors, Jackie Robinson.

In addition, other teams also starred spring training before the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, and even the Reds had a Triple-A affiliate, the Havana Sugar Kings, which was based in Havana.

More recently, in 1999, the Baltimore Orioles traveled to the island for an exhibition match at the Latinoamericano Stadium against the national team, which returned the visit to Camden Yards in Maryland.

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