A group of Major League Baseball executives and players is on a three-day goodwill tour of Cuba that could pave the way for a new relationship between the U.S. major leagues and Cuba.
U.S. baseball has quite a history on the island. MLB teams used to play games in Cuba regularly. The Cincinnati Reds even had a farm team there.
“There was a major connection between baseball in Cuba and baseball in the United States,” said Peter Bjarkman, an author and Cuban baseball historian.
That tight connection ended with the Cuban revolution. And, Bjarkman said, the Cuban government may still have reservations about, for example, letting Major League Baseball set up academies there to train (and poach) local players.
“I don’t think they want Major League Baseball to come in there and strip mine all of the talent out of the country, as has happened in the Dominican Republic,” Bjarkman said.
The league might be able to buy some Cuban cooperation, though.
“Poaching isn’t so bad if the poaching comes along with a big transfer payment,” said Victor Matheson, who teaches sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass.
Matheson said Cuba might happily let its players go if those payments were big enough. Now,the but: Ultimately, Congress has to lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba. And it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry.
“Given the divisiveness of Congress as well as the list of things Congress has to get done, it’s not going to happen anytime soon,” said Christopher Sabatini, who teaches classes on foreign policy in Latin America at Columbia University.
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