An unlikely source of diplomacy will be soon be bringing the U.S. and Cuba closer together.
Last week Cuba’s Baseball Federation and the U.S. Major League Baseball League announced a historic deal – that provides a path for Cuban players to sign deals with US teams. CGTN Luis Chirino reports from Havana.
The president of the Cuban Baseball Federation confirmed the deal with the United States, at a press conference in Havana.
“This is a happy day for Cuban baseball, for baseball around the world, for our people and also for the American people,” Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation said.
The deal eliminates the dangerous choice Cuban athletes have made for years to play baseball in the U.S.: leaving their country illegally and exposing themselves to human traffickers, previously the only option to reach American Major League clubs.
Among those who’ve risked the journey in the past, many were not successful but had to wait eight years before they could return home. But some players soared, like Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers – and Jose Dariel Abreu of the Chicago White Sox. Back in 2015, they made a visit back here to Cuba — to train kids and meet with fans and relatives.
“I’ve really missed my country, the people and the Cuban environment, which I had not seen for some time and I’m now filled with emotion. I came here to offer our children some clinics we do back in the U.S.,” Yasiel Puig, Cuban Major League Baseball player said.
Baseball has long served as a bridge between Cuba and the United States, with regular bilateral matches held attesting to both sides’ deep passion for the sport. In 2016, then-U.S. President Barack Obama visited the island and joined his then-counterpart Raul Castro at a baseball game in Havana in what was considered a historic event following the re-establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties.
The diplomacy of baseball– now serving as a step forward in U.S.-Cuba relations despite clear signs of setbacks under Donald Trump.
News of the accord prompted animated reactions from baseball fans here at Havana’s Central Park.
“This opens the doors to athletes with talent and conditions who want to reach their top success in baseball,” baseball fan Leo Plutin said.
“Everyone dreams of a Major League contract, so they can take on our best players now to the detriment of our national series, but young talents will follow on and play better ball because they will like to have a contract too.” added baseball fan Moises Triana.
This initial agreement, which covers players under contract to the Cuban Baseball Federation, will run through October 2021.