Baltimore Orioles to play in Cuba?


Late last year, President Obama announced a thaw of sorts in America’s relationship with Cuba – namely, moving forward we would actually have one. Possibly one of the net results of this is the fact that a couple of teams might now be interested in playing an exhibition game in Cuba. One of these teams is of course the Baltimore Orioles, and the other (according to this article by ESPN’s Buster Olney), is Boston. Without actually coming out and saying so, the article seems to indicate that Boston might be the favorite for this given the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry is a native New Englander and thus a BoSox fan.

The Orioles, as you’ll remember, played a home-and-home series with the Cuban National team in 1999. Game one was held during spring training, and the O’s defeated the Cubans 3-2 (in extra innings). Game two was held in May on an off day for the O’s, and was won by Cuba 12-6.

Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While this may not necessarily be the most popular of stances, I think that the O’s would benefit from participating in something like this once again. One commonality between Cuba and the United States has always been baseball, and any opportunity that we as a nation have to showcase this is one that needs to be taken. It would also be an opportunity for the Orioles to be seen as a goodwill ambassador on behalf of MLB, and thus on behalf of America.

A couple of things of note, however; first off, there’s nothing that indicates that such an exhibition game would be against the Cuban national team. It might well be a game against another major league team (perhaps Boston) that would be held in Havana. I would also submit that MLB and the Orioles would need to avoid having a scene similar to last time around when Peter Angelos, Bud Selig, and Cuban President Fidel Castro very publicly sat together in the stands and shook hands after the game. As I said, something like this could be viewed as the Orioles being goodwill ambassadors on behalf of America; but that doesn’t mean that MLB officials should be seen with world leaders who stand in stark contrast to basic human rights. (And yes, I recognize that Selig is no longer the commissioner, and that Fidel Castro is no longer in charge of Cuba.)

I thought that having the first game during spring training last time around was also a good idea, as the Orioles simply worked it into their Grapefruit League schedule. However if this is going to happen, I would submit that any return engagement should not be during the season (as the game in Baltimore was last time). There’s no reason why the Orioles couldn’t utilize Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota and incorporate that into spring training as well. Incidentally, if the game was to be against the Cuban team, there’s no guarantee that a return engagement would occur.

Ultimately I have my doubts as to the plausibility of this, however while a lot of Americans might be wary of the island nation, I don’t think it would be a horrible thing. Anytime the Orioles have an opportunity to play on behalf of the United States is an opportunity of which needs to be taken advantage.