MLB: Tampa Bay Rays will play Cuban National Team on March 22nd in Havana
The Tampa Bay Rays will play the Cuban National Team in an exhibition game on Tuesday, March 22nd at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana during an historic trip to the island nation, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) officially announced today. This will be the first visit to Cuba by an MLB franchise since the Baltimore Orioles played an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team on March 28, 1999.
ESPN and ESPN Deportes will provide live, national coverage of the game. In addition, ESPN’s SportsCenter will have an on-site presence in Havana on March 21st-22nd. The game will also be streamed via WatchESPN.
Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: "Major League Baseball is excited to play in Cuba and to have the Tampa Bay Rays representing our 30 Clubs. During a time of historic change, we appreciate the constructive role afforded by our shared passion for the game, and we look forward to experiencing Cuba’s storied baseball tradition and the passion of its many loyal fans."
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said: "The Players on the Tampa Bay Rays are looking forward to visiting Cuba and playing in front of some of the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans. We thank the Cuban National Team and all involved in hosting this game, as we are very excited to return to Havana to continue our efforts to strengthen the ties between our countries through our love and passion for the game of baseball."
Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg said: "The Rays are extremely proud to represent Major League Baseball on a trip that will be so memorable and significant for two countries that revere our great sport. Our franchise will be privileged to visit Cuba, to share the field with its National Team and to embody the goodwill of our game."
Previous efforts in Cuba
The exhibition game between the Rays and the Cuban National Team marks another milestone celebrating the shared passion for the game of baseball between the United States and Cuba. MLB and the MLBPA participated in a goodwill tour of Cuba from December 15th-18th, 2015. The tour included four days of children’s clinics and charitable events.
The trip featured Cuban-born Major Leaguers Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Brayan Peña of the St. Louis Cardinals, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and shortstop Alexei Ramirez of the San Diego Padres, as well as two-time American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, All-Star Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners, Jon Jay of the Padres and three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.
As a part of the shared trip, MLB and the MLBPA made a joint $200,000 donation to Caritas Cubana, the U.S.-based, non-governmental provider of humanitarian, social and emergency services to Cuba.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times: "President Barack Obama is also expected to attend the game as part of his own historic trip, the first visit by a U.S. president in nearly 90 years, as he continues efforts to restore relations with the island nation. The Rays are expected to head south after their March 20 game in Sarasota, participate in some community/goodwill events on Monday and then play on Tuesday afternoon, with the game televised by ESPN and broadcast on Rays radio."
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