It is springtime in America and Cuba now. In the spring, hope is eternal and it is time for baseball where hope is also eternal that someday your team will win. With the coming of spring we begin to thaw out of our winter months and in our relations between the United States and Cuba we are hoping that today’s visit in Cuba by President Obama will bring with it hope for a better tomorrow between our two nations.
One of the things that the United States and Cuba have in common is our love for baseball. Our mutual love of baseball goes back a long ways, back to the 1860’s. It is our national pastime and for Cuba they live and die with their teams. It is their national pastime as well.
Nemesio Guillot and his brother Ernesto brought baseball to Cuba. In the early 20th Century it was the Negro Leagues that played baseball in Cuba. As early as the 1920’s Negro League players such as Oscar Charleston and John Henry Lloyd, barnstormed the Cuban Islands showing off their wares.
Cuba as far back as the Spanish American War period, were quite independent in wanting to play baseball, instead of bowing to the wishes of Spain regarding bullfighting. Baseball was even banned for awhile while the Spanish insisted that the Cubans pay more attention to bullfighting, but the Cubans would not have anything to do with that and insisted on playing baseball.
So while the diplomats argue about policy, there is always baseball. Many players on the Islands are finding their way to the Big Leagues now. Take my hometown team the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yasiel Puig is a star for the team, a five tool player. A player who can hit, throw, and basically do everything well. He was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. We even have a second star player, Yasmani Grandal, who was born in Havana, Cuba. He is our catcher. Each player is a source of pride for the Dodgers and for baseball.
In Cuba, as each player finds their way onto a Major League Roster, the connection between what happens on our favorite team and what is happening back home cements a relationship that heretofore had not been there.
The diplomats will have their problems to iron out but we always have baseball.