Baseball

Baseball

By: Connie Pérez

 

With the typical child’s naivety, Victor Mesa Jr. enjoys, in the field of stadium Victoria de Girón, the five moments of the baseball clinic. Like his father in March 1999, he takes part in an encounter between Cuba and a representation of the United States’ Major Leagues.

The youngest of Victor “Show” Mesa’s children doesn’t want to forget the morning of December 17th 2015. With his cell phone he takes pictures of MLB players Yasiel Puig and Nelson Cruz (Los Angeles Dodgers), Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers), and Alexei Ramírez and José Dariel Abreu (White Sox).

Just like him, Anthony, Pedro, Carlos and about other hundred kids were witnesses of the first academic exchange in 16 years between the Cuban Baseball Federation, the Major Leagues, and the Baseball Players Association of the United States.

Since their arrival in Havana, the ambassadors of Major League Baseball (MLB) announced their message of good will in favor of baseball, a sport that is part of the national identity of both countries.

But, what was the legacy of MLB to national baseball, in the moment of the first anniversary of the declarations of presidents Raúl Castro, from Cuba, and Barack Obama, from the U.S., given on December 17th, 2014?

First: The MLB organization has abided by the laws of the embargo, and limits the participation of Cubans in the Caribbean Professional Leagues. Thus it acts extraterritorially, beyond the borders of the United States. Two years since the contract policy was approved in the Cuban sport system, this visit is the first contact between directors in the Major Leagues, the Baseball Players Association and the Cuban Federation, which strive for normal relations in the context of mutual respect.

Second: In 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays intend to play a series of friendly games with the Cuban national team, just as it happened in March 1999, when the Baltimore Orioles visited Cuba.

Third: The return of four Cuban baseball players to their home land was an important part of the second MLB visit to Cuba. Seeing MLB players Alexei Ramírez, Yasiel Puig, José Dariel Abreu and Brayan Peña share in the same field with Pedro Luis Lazo, Pedro Medina, Orestes Kindelán, Félix Isasi, Lázaro Junco and other great players, changed the idea that for 55 years would consider players that left the country as traitors and deserters.

Fourth: The visit of Major League and Baseball Players Association executives confirmed the interest of those organizations in the services of Cuban baseball players.

A year after dialogs for the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the U.S. were announced, the MLB visit to Havana is the second act of recognition of Cuba’s baseball talent. On January 27th the American Treasure Department, by way of the Bureau for the Control of Foreign Assets (OFAC) passed new regulations that removed the need of a special permit to sign contracts with Major League baseball teams.

Such regulations stimulate the arrival of Cuban baseball players to the Big Show, since the new immigration policy of the island allows it for third Latin-American countries to be used as a springboard to arrive in the U.S. Thus, without the need to request a license from the OFAC, players evade the “draft” which would keep them from accessing million-dollar contracts.

Fifth: The continuous difficulties of the Cuban team in the international arena are reduced by the visit of MLB, which opens possibilities to create a mixed team with players from the national tournament and the Major Leagues for the 2017 World Classic.

The turn in the relations between Cuba and the United States, initiated on December 17th 2014, propitiated that the MLB set their eyes in Cuba. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated he would like to have more clarity about the situation of the players that leave the country, legally or illegally, so that the same rules apply to all. He has spoken of the possibility that Cuban players may return to the island after the season.

For the moment, a set of federal laws keep the 30 MLB teams from exchanging directly with Cuban baseball. The U.S. continues to be benefited party. Meanwhile, for Cuban baseball players and fans, the Major Leagues remain simply a dream.

 

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Headlining News

  • The Cuban government has begun to pay ahead of schedule the debt which was renegotiated with more than a dozen international creditors, in a first step to settle outstanding accounts that historically has been dragging, reported Reuters. Havana sealed in December 2015 an agreement with the Paris Club countries and managed to get 14 governments to forgive him 8,500 of 11,100 million still pending. The repayment of the remaining amount was structured over 18 years and the first payment of about $ 40 million, was made before October 31. "The Cuban government has paid the first installment and has done soon", said the French Ambassador to Cuba, Jean-Marie Bruno. Under the agreement with the Paris Club the 14 countries had a year to sign restructuring pacts that could include the establishment of local accounts, where a percentage of the money owed would be earmarked for development projects.

  • At the fairgrounds Expocuba more than 75 countries and 4 500 exhibitors have gathered since this Monday to seek business opportunities in the Caribbean largest shopping bag. Until November 4 Cuban entrepreneurs can showcase their results in the production of goods and services and present their interests in the search of foreign investment. Aiming for this, the Ministry of Tourism has arranged a larger exhibition area at the fair, for which presents a portfolio of 127 investment projects, including 25 for the construction of hotels, 97 in the form of hotel management with or without external financing and five dedicated to marine management. United States, Spain, France, Italy and Japan increased their participation, and Venezuela, China and Russia are the partners of the island most represented at the meeting.

  • The Roswell Park Cancer Institute, based in the city of Buffalo, will hold in the United States a clinical trial of a Cuban vaccine against lung cancer. The goal is to test the CimaVax-EGF, a treatment developed by the Molecular Immunology Center in Havana. The institute, one of the most important of its kind in the world, becomes the first American medical institution to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test a Cuban medical therapy in that country. The clinical trial is expected to begin in November and to involve roughly 60 - 90 US patients. Although CimaVax-EGF does not provide a cure of the disease, it contributes to slow the growth of tumors and is less toxic than chemotherapy. In this regard, it has already shown promising results in Cuba, and other countries like Peru, Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • One of the most important groups in the contemporary world scene will tour Cuba. Odin Teatret will carry out from October 30 to November 25 a tour through several provinces. Based in the Danish town of Holstebro, Odin Teatret is led since 1964 by the Italian master Eugenio Barba. During his stay in Cuba they will present eight shows, which include one-person and group shows as well as a program of lectures, workshops, work demonstrations, audiovisual presentations, master classes and other exchanges. The tour will cover the cities of Las Tunas, Sancti Spiritus, Matanzas, Santa Clara, Camagüey, Pinar del Rio, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba and Havana.

  • 25th edition of International Ballet Festival of Havana Alicia Alonso has started. The event, one of the most prestigious in the world of dance- will take place until November 6. Among the guests are the company Buenos Aires Ballet, under the direction of Federico Fernández; Dance Americanana -group composed of figures of the New York City Ballet and the Miami City Ballet-; Ballet West, also American, and the Canadian company Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Also integrate the list Vlovajob Pru, led by François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea; Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1929 by the celebrated dancer and choreographer Martha Graham; and Irene Rodriguez’s (Cuba). Also attending the Festival are choreographers Daniel Proietto and Demis Volpi, both Argentinian; Colombian-Belgian Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cuban Alberto Mendez and Ely Regina Hernandez, who created especially for the event, the pas de deux Winter.

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