Ever since the United States and Cuba began to improve relations with one another, the concept of baseball in the formerly closed-off nation was brought up. On Tuesday, that concept became reality, as the Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Havana to play the Cuban national team.
Before talks began between the two nations, the only Cuban exposure to American baseball was the defection of players. When the Cuban national team went overseas, players sometimes defected from the team, and set residency in the foreign nation so they could become a MLB free agent. Superstars such as Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig both defected, as well as many other solid MLB players.
The exhibition drew a record crowd to “Estadio Latinoamericano.” Among those in attendance were Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro, Derek Jeter, Dave Winfield, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Secretary of State John Kerry, and several other Cuban officials.
As for the game itself, the Rays earned a 4–1 victory behind solid performances by Matt Moore and James Loney. Loney hit a three-run home run, while Moore had shut out the national team until a home run by Rudy Reyes in the ninth inning.
However, the game was little about the final score, and more about the repairing of relations that have been sour for over 50 years. After the game, both teams swapped jerseys, and the Rays Twitter account noted that “Everybody won today.”
“We won’t experience anything like this again,” said Kevin Cash, the Rays manager. “A lot, this game meant a lot, because of the brotherhood there will be from now on,” said Reyes.
There is still a lot of work to be done between the United States and Cuba. Decades of hostile feelings are just now being repaired. The exhibition game in Havana on Tuesday represented a big step in the restoration of relations between the two nations.