Cuba: Where Politics and Baseball Intertwine


The MLB willget to see more players like Yasiel Puig from Cuba now with relaxed relations between them and the US. Courtesy of Wikimedia
The MLB willget to see more players like Yasiel Puig from Cuba now with relaxed relations between them and the US. Courtesy of Wikimedia

By Gregory Wagner

After years and years of hateful discord, it seems as though the United States and Cuba may finally be entering a time of acceptance and understanding.  The American embargo against Cuba began in October of 1960 – a few years after the Cuban Revolution – and ever since then all commercial and economic relations have been cut between the two countries.  Yet, with time comes change.  This past Thursday (Feb. 12), a partisan bill was introduced to Congress which would finally call for an end to the embargo.

Although the passage of this bill is uncertain, what is certain is that this bill get people talking about the relations between the two nations, and an eventual removal of the embargo seems to be inevitable.

Many look forward to the end of the embargo against Cuba, for a few different reasons.  For we baseball lovers appreciate the fact that Americans will finally be able to visit the tropical island and enjoy a Cuban cigar, we really look forward to the Cuban baseball stars who will come play in America.

Cuba revels in its baseball history; it has always been home to some of the best baseball players ever to pick up a bat and glove.  The Cuban Baseball League has a very in-depth system.  Made up of five different leagues, or regions, they play each other throughout the season, eventually concluding with a championship game.

The Cuban Baseball League has showed its dominance over the last decade in the World Baseball Classics.  Following the first three tournaments, Cuba ranks as the fourth-strongest baseball country in the world with a combined record of 13-7.  In comparison, the United States sits in the seventh spot with an amassed record of 10-10.  Along with this ranking from the World Baseball Classic, the International Baseball Federation ranks Cuba as the third-best baseball country in the world.

In addition to the great baseball success that Cuba has experienced within its own borders, Cuban players who have managed to make it into the United States have excelled in the MLB.  As of the end of the 2014 season, there were 22 Cuban players in the league.  Now, with the celebrated arrival of Yasmany Tomas, the count sits at 23.  The majority of these Cuban players have made a huge impact on their own teams and on the league as a whole.  Those who have thrived include: Yoenis Céspedes, Aroldis Chapman, José Abreu, José  Fernandéz and Yasiel Puig.

Although these Cuban players have made a significant impact on the Major League Baseball, currently it is extremely difficult for them to enter the United States to play.  Yasiel Puig has described how, to leave Cuba, he “had to promise some 20 [percent] of his future salary to human traffickers who smuggled him and his friends out of Cuba on cigar boats and then held them hostage in Mexico,” in a recent Huffington Post article by William M. LeoGrande.  This type of experience happens all too often for Cuban players who aspire to play baseball in the United States, and Puig is one of the lucky few who have been able to make it to the MLB.

Once this bill is passed to end the embargo, new opportunities will emerge for Cubans as a result of Cuban players entering Major League Baseball.

For one, with the massive contracts that these stars will sign, Cuban players will be able to give back to the communities of Cuba that sculpted them into the driven athletes they are today.  I think that this will make a larger impact on the prosperity of Cubans than some would imagine.

Along with the economic stipulations, the acceptance of Cubans in Major League Baseball would be very influential in healing the scars that have been created over the past half-century between the United States and Cuba.  It is evident that baseball continues to transform from “America’s pastime” into an “international pastime,” and I believe that we should continue to embrace this transformation due to the positive influence which international players have had on the game.  In saying this, I truly look forward to more Cuban players being allowed to play baseball in the United States.