Now president Obama has re-established the diplomatic ties with Cuba, you can wonder what the effect on Cuban baseball will be.
For decades, Cuban players were not allowed to play in the US, resulting in many players fleeing the country directly or during internationals tournaments abroad (like Aroldis Chapman did in 2009, when a Cuban delegation played a tournament in the Netherlands). In an attempt to stop players from defecting, the Cuban baseball association installed a rule which allowed Cuban players to play in foreign countries but the US. The rule didn’t help a lot since the players traveled to Mexico or other countries before moving to the US.
Now the relationship between the two countries has thawed, it will have an impact on travel procedures between the two countries, at least from the US to Cuba. It remains to be seen if it will have the same impact the other way around.
But if that is the case, it will be easier for Cubans to travel to the US as well. If that is the case you can bet that it will have a huge impact on baseball on the island itself. Since 2000 Cuban baseball has deteriorated steadily. It has even deteriorated this much that there was not enough talent in the Cuban competition for the number of clubs. If traveling from Cuba to the US will be easier you can count on it that many Cuban players will try their luck in the US. So what remains in Cuba will not be the cream of the crop (with all due respect).
Can you blame them? Of course not. The MLB is still the Walhalla of baseball. Every kid that loves baseball is dreaming to reach the Majors one day.
On the other hand the new relationship may have a positive impact as well. During the last three editions of the World Baseball Classic, Cuba didn’t field the Cuban players that played in the MLB. Maybe, with the 2017 editon, Cuba may even sport a team that includes Cuban MLB stars. In other words, they may field their best team ever.
Cuba during the 2013 World Baseball Classic
Since President Obama made the announcement only yesterday, we have to wait how it all will develop. But it may be a very interesting development for sure.