At least for one game, Major League Baseball is officially coming back to Cuba.
The league announced on Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs will play an exhibition game on March 22 in Havana's Latin America Stadium. It's the first time an MLB team is playing in Cuba since the Baltimore Orioles played an exhibition against the country's national team in 1999, and it's a major accomplishment for the baseball world.
Oh, and the President is going to be there.
A Historic Visit
Since re-opening formal diplomatic ties with Cuba, Barack Obama has promised to visit the island. The President's trip begins later this month, and while he's there, he'll get to soak in some of America's Pastime, though perhaps not without some backlash from his political colleagues.
But baseball is more important than politics.
That's the point of this game, really. The Cubs and Rays aren't marching into Havana to fight for capitalism a la the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, they're going to have fun and play baseball -- and in a country with as big a love for the game as ours. Matt Silverman, the Rays' president of baseball operations, had this to say:
"We're excited to be part of this trip. For us, it's about spreading goodwill through baseball."
And what better way to spread goodwill? What better way to clear the past and wipe away political tension than with a 9-inning show starring baseball's brightest young talents?
Love of the Game
That's the whole idea here. As opposed to slogging through the muck of political stress, Americans and Cubans are getting a chance to share something, and bond over a game beloved by both. The fireworks on March 22nd won't be of rickety Cold War missiles, but of the pops off the bat of Kris Bryant, and the cannon-like throws from Kevin Kiermaier.
Baseball is more than a game, and in three weeks it will be the mouthwatering center of Cuba's sunny capital. Broadcasted on ESPN, the Rays and Cubs will get to share the world's greatest sport with hungry, excited, and astounded fans. No politics. No diplomacy. No statecraft. No tensions.