As part of the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama, and more importantly, the Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Havana this week. The historic trip included a baseball game on Tuesday.
While baseball might be America's national pastime, it is Cuba's obsession. The game is nationally beloved and serves as an escape for many of it's citizens. And Cuba has a rich history with the game ranging all the way back to the early 20th century.
American baseball is not easily viewed within Cuba. Games can be blocked and often are censored when Cuban-born players bat. Add in the incredible stories of Cuban baseball defectors, and the MLB and Cuba have a complicated relationship. While the game was part of the political process, it also serves as a conversation starter on these issues.
The game itself was a spectacle. President Obama sat first row with Cuba's president, Raul Castro. The environment was lively, and featured a moment that I deem grounds for impeachment: the wave. Fans were in the stands three hours in advance and players were impressed by the passion they saw.
The defining moment of the game came when Dayron Varona stepped up to the plate.
Dayron Varona returns home. #MLBinCuba pic.twitter.com/AsnC0fD6y1— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) March 22, 2016
Varona, who is Cuban, had not seen his family in over three years. They were reunited earlier in the week in an emotional and triumphant moment.
The game ended in a 4-1 win for Tampa Bay, but like all spring training games, the actual result didn't matter.
With my mind on the incomprehensible attacks in Brussels yesterday, its hard not to view this through a greater international lens. Regardless of your politics, unification and support of your fellow human should be paramount. Sure it was just a baseball game, and this only the first presidential trip, but it's a start with our neighbors to the south. And it was a good start.
Speaking of Cuba ...
What is everyone's favorite Cuban up to? Using the Mets' practice field as a driving range. Cespedes is dominating this offseason.
And while we are on the Mets, they just became Florida's most popular team! Come for the pitching, stay for the hair. Also this:
My favorite Cuban baseball fact is there are two teams in Havana and one is literally the Mets pic.twitter.com/5S97v9xdAb— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) March 22, 2016
Cuts have started, with nine players making their departure. The team is seeing benefits from Kirk Gibson's baserunning expertise. Which I find odd because running around the bases while fist pumping seems counterproductive. Anibal Sanchez felt good after a sparkling debut. And Daniel Norris re-aggravated his back injury yesterday, because we can't have too many nice things.
The Atlanta Braves must be stopped
Not on the baseball field, that's not going to be too difficult. But whoever is running their concessions is a MONSTER.
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