Baseball: A highpoint in Obama's visit to Cuba this month
President Barack Obama announced early this week that he will drop by the Latin American stadium in Havana to attend an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba's national baseball team. The American politician will be on an official visit to the Caribbean country from 21 to 22 March this year.
As a massive baseball fan, Barack Obama has included in the schedule of his historic trip to Cuba a visit to the island’s flagship baseball stadium in Havana, where an exhibition game between an American MLB team and Cuba’s national baseball team will take place.
White House official Ben Rhodes confirmed the president's decision via Twitter last Tuesday, pointing out in his tweet that:
“Charting new #CubaPolicy means stronger ties between Cubans & Americans - we all share a love of baseball.”
Serious tensions between the United States’ administration and the Cuban government have lessened during the last year, as heads of state Raul Castro and Barack Obama communicated via simultaneous public speeches (on December 2014) their mutual intentions to reach an agreement for restoring diplomatic ties between both countries.
Last month President Obama announced that he would be travelling to Cuba in March accompanied by his wife Michelle, as a demonstration of his commitment to the negotiation process.
His participation in the baseball event, scheduled for 22nd March, has a strong symbolic dimension, as this particular sports discipline has important meanings in the identities and lives of the American and Cuban people. Mr Rhodes in his official Twitter account posted this Wednesday:
“We are very excited to…strengthen ties between our countries through our love & passion for the game of baseball.”
The game itself is a significant event, considering that it will be the first time in 17 years that a Mayor League team plays in Cuba. In 1999, the Baltimore Orioles played an exhibition game at the very same stadium in Havana. The series of two events (one took place in the island and the other in the U.S.) marked the first time that the Cuban national team had faced the MLB since 1959.
Carlos Lois, technical head of the Cuban Baseball Commission, stated that local players battling it out against the MBL team will be selected among those who performed well during the National Series. Training sessions for Cuba’s team will kick off next week.
Barack Obama is a Chicago White Sox fan and a baseball lover, as he has demonstrated in many occasions with his presence at various games and his comments about this sports practice in public. A family snapshot released to the press about three years ago, shows a very young Obama practicing his baseball swing in the 1960s.
Obama's state visit to the island will mark the first sighting of a U.S. president in Cuba in nearly 90 years. According to official statements from the White House, Obama's trip to the Caribbean nation is intended to push for further advances in the efforts that the U.S. government is making for “improving the lives of the Cuban people”.
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