By now, most of the world knows some sanctions regarding the United States’ relationship with Cuba have been relaxed. While the advantages merely reference travel for American citizens with family in Cuba, it’s the first tangible movement toward a reconciliation, in nearly 50 years.
When I first learned that President Obama was forging a possible productive relationship with Cuba, I immediately reasoned “what impact could this have on Major League Baseball?” It’s not a stretch to suggest Cuba could be the new “hot bed” of pro-caliber talent, within the Caribbean region.
Heck, with antiquated equipment, teachings and conditioning, Cuba has produced an impressive group of big league players – many of who risked their lives to reach the United States. The list of current players includes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Livan Hernandez, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Danys Baez, Kendry Morales, Alexei Ramirez, Rey Ordonez, Jose Contreras and Alex Sanchez.
There’s an impressive list of notable former Major Leaguers of Cuban descent, as well. This list would include Luis Tiant, Rafael Palmeiro, Minnie Minoso, Tony Olivo, Tony Perez, Bert Campaneris, Jose Canseco, Diego Segui, Cookie Rojas, Mike Cuellar, and many others.
While such lists don’t rival the mass of players who’ve hailed from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, it should be remembered players from these countries have always been free to travel to the Unites States and make a living by playing pro baseball. Cubans have not been afforded such a privilege.
Regardless of government regimes and politics, the Cuban people have always loved baseball and the Cuban National Team is a threat in any tourney. As many recall from the Orioles’ trip to Havana, attendance at Cuban games is abundant. Baseball has a real appeal on this island nation.
In a perfect world, Cuba would be built upon a democracy, and its Socialist ties would come to an end. If so, I could picture Havana with it’s own Major League franchise. It’s worked in Toronto. And, Havana boasts the population (2 million) to support a pro team.
That said, such a “pipedream” is even further from reality than a championship-caliber Orioles team. If Cuba became a free nation, based on Capitalism as soon as tomorrow, the country’s economy would need years of healthy recovery for a citizen base to actively and monetarily support Major League Baseball.
In other words, if Cuba really became FREE, the people would have to crawl before they walk. The infrastructure of the island nation is deplete of current technological advances and modern conveniences. The damn place is stuck in 1959 !!!!
The sad truth is Cuba will not be a free nation, anytime soon. Their Socialist stranglehold will forbid any real progress in mending the severed relationship with the United States. Regardless of relaxed travel perks, the United States cannot be a friend or ally of a nation where freedom has no place.
In addition, Cuba would have to cease its relationship with terrorist nations and enemies of humanity. Finally, Cuba would need to return EVERY LAST INCH OF THE PRIVATELY OWNED REAL ESATE that was seized, nearly 50 years ago. And, this is not going to happen.
In a sobering way, all of these issues are much larger than baseball. We’re talking about LIFE and FREEDOM. But, if and when Cuba is free ….. the game of baseball will benefit greatly.