Orioles interested in playing exhibition game in Cuba
The Orioles, the only Major League Baseball team to play on Cuban soil since1959, are discussing the possibility of playing an exhibition game there in the near future.
The team is interested in playing an exhibition game in Cuba during spring training — the topic came up within the past month — but nothing is imminent, according to one industry source.
Despite recently-improved diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, scheduling a game for this spring would seem unlikely because MLB is still working to get an understanding of what the laws will be regarding Cuba. Planning a game for 2016 would seem to be more feasible.
“There’s interest from the team,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “I don’t know about the logistics yet.”
In December, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. planned to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, the first step in ending a political standoff between the nations that has lasted five decades.
The Orioles played an exhibition game in Havana in 1999 as part of a home-and-home series against the Cuban All-Star team. A return trip would seem to be much easier now.
Last month, Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba and through the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, licenses for authorized travel to the island are being issued for the purposes of “public, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions.”
“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations,” the league said in December. “While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”
Orioles managing partner Peter G. Angelos was a driving force behind the Orioles trip to Cuba in 1999. Angelos lobbied three years for his team to have the opportunity to play in Cuba before he reached a compromise that would satisfy MLB, the players’ union, the Cuban government and the U.S. State Department. Angelos’ case was that despite their differences, the nations had a common passion for baseball that could help build a bridge of diplomacy between them.
The Orioles traveled to Havana to play an exhibition on March 28, 1999, marking the first time in 40 years that a major league team played a game in Cuba. The game, which the Orioles won, 3-2, in 11 innings, was attended by roughly 50,000 people at Havana’s Estadio Latinoamericano. The Orioles hosted the Cuban All-Stars on May 3 at Camden Yards, a 12-6 Orioles loss, in a game that drew 47,940 .