032316-deportes-pix-3Tampa Bay Rays Defeat Cuban National Team 4-1

President Barack Obama sat in the stands, relaxed, and took in a baseball game to finish off his visit of Cuba. Cuba, for so long an enemy that Americans liked to pretend didn’t exist except to provide us (illegally) with cigars, finally has an end in sight to the long held, crippling embargo that the US placed on Cuba in 1962.

The embargo was put in place by then President John F Kennedy to reduce “the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers.” Since then, any and all trade with Cuba has been strictly illegal. President Obama is now calling on Congress to put an end to the embargo, though we will see if that ever gets done.

The baseball game itself was fairly underwhelming. The Cuban national team didn’t score a run until the ninth inning, even though they were able to scatter 9 hits throughout the game. The Rays pushed across four runs thanks in large part to the bat of James Loney, who homered and drove in three runs. Though many of the players on the Cuban team were not quite at the level of a Major League Baseball team, they still have plenty of talent for the MLB to raid if Cuban players are ever allowed to come here without having to defect to do so.

The right fielder for the Rays, Dayron Varona, led off the game with a flyout and received polite applause in response. Varona was the first player to ever defect from Cuba and return to play a baseball game in Cuba.

Tampa Bay, with its huge Cuban population, was the perfect team to return to Cuba. If Cubans are ever allowed to come over to the United States you’d have to imagine that the Florida baseball teams would be willing to pay a slightly higher price than most other teams to appease their fan base. Many players would likely make the jump, knowing that the highest salaries and best lives are waiting for them in the MLB. Not to downplay the personal toll it will take on the players to leave their friends and family in Cuba, but if travel is allowed between United States and Cuba then they would be able to fly in their families or even have them move to the United States with them.

During the game ESPN, who did not seem to be thrilled to be covering the game, posted a photo of the city right outside the stadium from their SportsCenter twitter account, implying that even though there were fun and festivities going on inside the gates, outside was a grim story of poverty. Journalists and fans alike responded in droves, posting photos outside of the baseball stadiums, mainly those in New York and Detroit, and the poverty that surrounds them. The message is loud and clear, while some Americans believe us to be better than Cuba, we are not all that different and it is time to accept one another.