BASEBALL U.S. Cuba Relations & Baseball, Or Will The Yankees & Mets Be Left Out?

Pabon: “I would love to see this taking place in Yankee stadium, or Citi-Field.” (Photo archives)

A Sporting Opinion

With the warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba announced on December 17th, 2014 by both presidents, Barack Obama and Raul Castro many corporations, businesses and organizations alike have been scrambling to learn about any new regulations that might allow them to visit Cuba and be the “first” at whatever it is that they do, or want to do.

Major League Baseball and practically every one of the thirty teams must have been looking for ways that they could get access to one of Cuba’s valuable exports, Cuban baseball players.

President Obama’s December announcement that would normalize relations with Cuba has already resulted in the relaxation of rules for Cuban defectors to be allowed to sign with major league teams. Now all they’re required to present is a signed affidavit stating they have established residency in a third country, instead of having to go through the lengthy previous process of getting a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Cubans have been an integral part of the American past time since 1873 when Esteban Bellán was the first Cubano to play professional baseball here. Since then we have seen and been entertained by many players like Mike Cuellar, Minnie Miñoso, Tany Peréz and Luis Tiant. Unfortunately, shortly after the Cuban revolution in 1959 professional baseball was disbanded in Cuba and that was the beginning of the end of baseball players from the island.

There had always been some defectors the first being, Rogelio Alvarez, who debuted in MLB in 1960, was barred from continuing his professional career in the United States, and defected from Cuba in 1963, but they were few, here and there. It was not until 1991, when Cuba’s economy struggled after the collapse of the Soviet empire, leaving Cuba in one of the worst economic situations after the revolution that baseball players began to seek careers in MLB due to the high salaries.

The warming of relations between Washington and Havana will most likely lead to an agreement where Cubans who want to play in the majors could do so without defecting. Where they can come and play just like the Dominicans, Venezuelan’s, Columbians and others who return home when the season is over.

The addition of Cubans to MLB rosters will make baseball more Latino than it is today and add Cuban sandwiches to the list of stadium food. Perhaps this could be part of what my Chicano friends keep referring to as “La Reconquista?”

Whatever does happen, we know one thing for sure, baseball will continue to see an increase in Cuban players. For this reason I want to see the New York Yankees, or NY Mets take the lead and organize an excibition games with Cuban teams. I want to be able to walk to Yankee stadium, or take a short ride to Queens and see one of our New York teams playing against players that we never heard of who might surprise, or dazzle us as some Cubans recently did in winning the 2015 Caribbean Baseball Series.

Come on Yankees. Come on Mets. Let’s do this and not let the Baltimore Orioles be the only team opening up this road less traveled.

Julio Pabon is President and Founder of Latino Sports LLC., the parent company of Latinosports.com.