The MLB goodwill tour to Cuba, that will start next week, will have a few surprising participant: Cuban defectors that play in MLB.
When I read this, my first thought was “the Cuban government can see this as a provocation”, but now it seems that the Cuban government granted permission to MLB to let them join their ranks. Normally the Cuban government stigmatizes players like them as traitors, but granting permission to the Cuban MLB players, can be a sign that the Cuban government wants to show its good intentions as well and want the relationship with the USA to be normalized again.
The Cuban players that will participate are: Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and catcher/first baseman Brayan Pena.
A fourth Cuban MLB player could be Yasiel Puig, but it remains unclear if he will join the group as he is still under investigation by MLB due to some rumblings at a Miami nightclub.
Normally, players that fled the country aren’t allowed to reenter Cuba before eight years have finished.
Officials for Major League Baseball, working closely with their Cuban counterparts, including Antonio Castro, who is a son of Fidel Castro as well as a top baseball official, said they had secured assurances that the Cuban players would be allowed to be part of the tour, but with certain restrictions. They can visit with family members who live in Cuba, for example, but only at a designated hotel.
Another important part of the agreement is that the players that participate in the tour are allowed to leave the island as soon as the tour is over.
The tour will take place from December 15 through December 18 and will contain several children’s clinics, a charity event led by Joe Torre. Next to Torre, Dave Winfield, Tony Clark (president of the MLBPA), Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Jon Jay will be part of the group.
Next to this group, other MLB officials will travel to Cuba to examine the Estadio Latinoamericano to see if it will be a fit to host an MLB team to face Cuban players. If this event can go on, the Tampa Bay Rays will be the club that will participate in this game.