Cuba Will Play World Baseball Classic Game in Miami

MIAMI — This is the area with the most Cubans in the United States.

An estimated 1.2 million Cubans reside in the greater Miami area. However, that comes with a long and complicated history: The city has been largely rebuilt over the past six decades by Cuban exiles fleeing communist government on the nearby Caribbean island there. The area has been the focus of anti-Castro activities and in the past, artists sympathetic to the Cuban government have demonstrated or demonstrated. forbidden.

That complicated history is what adds intrigue and importance to the proceedings on Sunday when the Cuban national baseball team made what is believed to be the first trip to Miami since the communist revolution. in 1959. the players left the United States, qualified for the group stage of the World Classics Baseball Championship in Taiwan, and shocked the international baseball world by winning the quarter-finals in Japan. That helps the team qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament every four years, where it will face the winner of the quarter-finals between the United States and Venezuela.

The stadium that hosts the championship rounds of the tournament: loanDepot Park in the Miami neighborhood is known as Little Havana.

“In Miami, the symbolism is very strong,” said Andy Gomez, a professor of Cuban studies at the University of Miami. “For both sides.”

The inclusion of the Cuban team, which is seen not only as a symbol of the country’s most popular sport but also a tool of government propaganda, is expected to stir mixed emotions in the community. South Florida.

“I am there for sport, not for politics,” said Josuet Martinez, 48, Cuban and a fan of baseball, in Spanish. “We will enjoy sports.”

Martinez said this Friday while standing with his brother inside Westland Mall in Hialeah, a city with a large Cuban population in Miami-Dade County. Martinez was at a Lids store in the mall that had the Cuban team’s logo sewn onto a blue hat because the store didn’t have any of the team’s official hats in stock.

He said he left his business and country seven months ago to come to the United States in search of better economic opportunities. He expects the Cuban team to win on Sunday, but also expects Venezuela to be his opponent because he does not want to choose between his home country and his current homeland.

“In Miami, there are a lot of Cubans, so I imagine there will be a lot of fans,” Martinez said.

Others are not so sure. Armando Lopez, 68, lives near the stadium, home of the Miami Marlins, but said he doesn’t plan to attend the game. While living in Cuba, he was a fan of the national team. But after leaving the United States in 1980, he said, he began to “grow and recognize the manipulation of sports teams.”

“It’s not a Cuban that you don’t love a Cuban team,” he said in Spanish. “You identify with a team from your country. But the problem is the spread.” He added that the players, many of whom chose not to leave the Cuban team to move to the MLB, where they can earn millions of dollars, should “come here to play and come to see here is different than what it’s like to be there, that everyone here lives in freedom.”

Contrasting views are symbolic of a The atmosphere changes among Cubans in South Florida. Older generations fled for ideological reasons, while the younger wave left for economic reasons. Mass demonstrations by Cuban artists were more common than in previous decades. Descendants of Cuban immigrants increasingly enjoy visiting the island.

And there has been some normalization of relations between countries, sometimes through baseball. On March 22, 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays played an exhibition game against the Cuban national team in Havana, with President Barack Obama sitting next to President Raúl Castro of Cuba. In 2018, MLB and Cuban Baseball League reached an agreement to make it easier for players to compete in the US without defecting – but the Trump administration then finish itsays it constitutes a violation of commercial law because the Cuban federation is part of the government in Havana.

“You can’t lump the entire Cuban-American community into one group,” says Gomez, who came to the United States as a child and is now 68. For example, he said, some Cubans of his generation suffer from what he calls Cubans. tired, in that they had been waiting for the moment of great change but it did not happen, even after the death of Fidel Castro in 2016. And for those of his daughter’s generation, he said, the theme Cuba is somewhat irrelevant as it is not part of their daily life.

“I think there will be mixed emotions,” Gomez said, adding that he plans to cheer for the Cuban flag during Sunday’s game, but he will also be cheering for the United States. if it takes place in the match . “Those wounds will reopen and bring back bad memories for many people. I think it will cause a certain degree of frenzy in some of the other groups that are planning to protest.”

Miguel Saavedra, president of the Cuban exile group Vigilia Mambisa, said his organization is planning outside the stadium and other areas around Little Havana for the weekend. He said on Friday he wasn’t sure how many people would be involved.

“For them, it’s a symbol,” he said in Spanish, referring to the Cuban government and the baseball team. “For us, it is something that we must condemn. Everything that comes from the regime in Cuba deserves condemnation.”

Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba, supported the national team, say goodbye to players in person before they hit the road to practice before the WBC tournament. On social media, he wore his team’s hat and shared messages about them.

Some politicians in the United States have spoken out against this game.

“It is disrespectful to the entire Cuban exile community that this group is here,” said Esteban Bovo, the Republican mayor of Hialeah, in a statement. “I am outraged and stand with the families of political prisoners who are currently being tortured in the regime’s prisons without being able to see their families. I support the opposition and all those who express their views on the baseball game peacefully.”

The Cuban Federation did not respond to messages seeking comment. But Cuban Director Armando Johnson told an official government outlet that the team talked to players about what’s going to happen in Miami.

“They knew we were going to play in a venue where unfortunately we would have to face provocations,” he said in Spanish. “But in that sense, we are also prepared to prevent these maneuvers from achieving their goals, and we believe we will also find support. That spirit that drives us is the spirit of baseball, and with that belief we will prove ourselves on the field, always looking for more, so that’s where the final word is spoken. .”

Security is tight at the stadium scheduled for Sunday’s game. Fans can express themselves — with music, boos or flags, for example — but all tournaments have restrictions on signage. Based on loanDepot Park regulations, guests are not allowed to enter the stadium with banners larger than 3 feet by 5 feet or signs containing “vulgar language or disrespectful statements” or “statements related to political relations, political social and economic or other claims that undermine civil liberties.” As of Saturday morning, tickets were available for just $100 on the secondary market.

The Cuban national team has been to Florida before. In June 2021, it competed in an Olympic qualifying tournament in West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, but lost 1-2 and failed to secure a spot in the Summer Olympics. There were a few protests outside the stadium.

To even compete in the WBC, the Cuban team needs special permission from the US government because their sanctions prohibit doing business with Cuba. After consulting with the State Department, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the country’s trade sanctions enforcement agency, issued a specific permit to allow Cuba brought in and “voluntary participation of a number of baseball players of Cuban descent,” including those who play on MLB teams, a Treasury Department spokesman said.

But unlike other countries, the Cuban federation and its athletes cannot receive any revenue or bonuses from the WBC under the license, the spokesman said.

Cuba was not expected to get this far in the tournament. The nation has won three Olympic gold medals and two silver medals in six Summer Olympics featuring baseball. The team was also runner-up in the inaugural WBC 2006. But as more and more players defected to play in the MLB, the team struggled on the international stage. It did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and has not reached the semi-finals of the WBC since that first tournament.

Afterward pressure from Cuban players to defect tried to form their own WBC team, the Cuban federation changed its stance. For the first time, it allows defected players to represent it in this WBC — but only some are accepted and others are either uninvited or declined the offer.

To this end in the tournament, Cuba finished 2-2 in a Pool A match in Taiwan and advanced as the top seed of that group. In Wednesday’s quarterfinals in Japan, it beat Australia 4-3, then flew to South Florida.

On Friday, the team practiced at MLB’s Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, about two hours north of Miami. And on Saturday morning, the team will practice at loanDepot Park, hours before the United States and Venezuela face off on the same field.


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button