Almost 60 years of the vigorous blockade has not quenched the desires of either the Cuban or the U.S people to translate geographic proximity into human warmth and friendship. Two governments of glaringly contradictory ideologies, that had maintained a face-off for decades and has been somewhat relaxed over thepast two years, put their political differences aside in order to continue their approximation.
Nevertheless, the desire of people to maintain close ties was never lost and was manifest once again on March 22 when on the turf of the recently manicured Latinoamericano Stadium, Cuba’s national baseball selection lined out against the American Leagues Tampa Bay Rays Major Leagues team.
The presidents of both nations, Raul Castro and Barack Obama, who greeted the members of both teams before taking their seats as part of the large crowd, were welcomed by a heartfelt ovation from the sports fans present.
The pitching of the opening ball indicated that this was to be about unity, because it was thrown jointly by two Cubans with the most victories in the Major Leagues(Luis Tiant) and the Cuban League (Pedro Luis Lazo) and caught by Evan Longoria and Osvaldo Vázquez.
This symbolized something long called for: that Cubans in U.S. baseball not be discriminated against by Treasury Department laws that require them to abandon their homeland in order to join what are called “Big Top” teams.
The Latinoamericano stadium field, recently embellished with a touch of deep green paint, played host to the more than 40,000 fans who had taken their seats since early morning. Another new feature was a center field zone devoid of fans and painted black, in keeping with the regulations of the modern game to facilitate better visiblity for batters.
The logo of the historic game had been painted all around the diamond. Everything was ready for the “Play Ball” instruction to be called.
The difference between the teams came quickly to light on the field, with Cuba bleeding from wounds inflicted by Blockade laws that ensure present levels are far below the finest possible by counting only on players that reside and play their ball game on the island.
Tampa went ahead at the top of the second inning, thanks to a simple touch by starter James Loney that brought Kevin Kiermaier, who had hit a double, home. This was a text book example of how to make the most of an advantage, because throughout the game Cuba had various players in scoring positions that were not exploited by the following batters.
The two presidents departed at the close of this inning but the level of game fever did not drop even though the home team were never ahead on the scoreboard.
It was Loney again who secured two further points in the fourth by hitting a home run with Desmond Jennings in circulation thanks to a pass. Minutes before, a white dove landed on the pitch as if to declare the peaceful symbolism of the game underway.
The visitors’ fourth and final point came in the seventh from an unstoppable hit by Steve Pearce that saw Mikie Mahtook home.
Rudy Reyes salvaged Cuba’s pride with a rocket home run at the end of the ninth, leaving a final score of 1-4. Tampa won the game, but Cuba, the U.S. and the game of baseball could also claim a matchday triumph.Share on FB Share on TT