This just in……………………
The Tampa Bay Rays will travel to Cuba later this month for a historic game against the Cuban national team, Major League Baseball announced today.
The Rays will play in Havana’s at Estadio Latinoamericano on March 22, making them the first major league team since the Baltimore Orioles in 1999 to play in Cuba.
“It’s good they are letting Major League Baseball go back there to play again,” Rays catcher Rene Rivera said. “It’s a good for both sides.”
President Obama is scheduled to visit Cuba at the same time and could even throw out the first pitch before the game, which is will be to be play at 3 p.m. and televised by ESPN.
Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
“The Rays are extremely proud to represent Major League Baseball on a trip that will be so memorable and significant for two countries that revere our great sport,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a release. “Our franchise will be privileged to visit Cuba, to share the field with its National Team and to embody the goodwill of our game.”
In the same release, baseball commissioner Robert Manfred said: “Major League Baseball is excited to play in Cuba and to have the Tampa Bay Rays representing our 30 Clubs. During a time of historic change, we appreciate the constructive role afforded by our shared passion for the game, and we look forward to experiencing Cuba’s storied baseball tradition and the passion of its many loyal fans.”
The Rays will fly to Cuba on March 20, hold a clinic March 21 and return immediately after the game.
“For us as players, it’s a learning experience,” Rivera said. “For them as a country, they will know how baseball is here. It’s great for both sides. Cuba, you see a lot of great players, and this is an opportunity to show how American baseball is. It’s going to be awesome.”
The trip will cause a disruption to the team’s spring training routine, mostly with the schedule of the pitchers.
Representatives from Major League Baseball visited Cuba in December in hopes of having a team play this month against the national team. The Rays won a lottery among the major league teams interested in making the trip.
“We’re excited. I am,” Sternberg said Tuesday morning at Charlotte Sports Park. “While it’s a pain in the tush, nothing enjoyable really happens free of charge, and I think at the end of the day it can only be good for our franchise. We’re going to have a lot of national attention. While everybody is looking at it as a little bit of a pain, we’re going to be psyched that we did it. We’ll be able to get our brand out there. Will it sell a ticket in our stadium? Absolutely. Will it sell thousands? Maybe. Will it sell millions? No. but it will be helpful.”
The players union had concerns over player safety, the conditions of the field and clubhouse.
“The passion for the game of baseball that exists in Cuba is tremendous,” Tony Clark, head of the players union said. “The love for the game is tremendous. … Understanding there are some sensitivities there, the game of baseball bridged a lot of those things to where the game itself became the focal point, and our collective love for it became the focal point.”
Source: Roger Mooney, Tampa Tribune