The Tampa Bay Rays did far more than play a mere exhibition game Tuesday in Havana. Their meeting with the Cuban National Team was a seminal event for Major League Baseball, perhaps the defining moment to someday open the doors to Cuba like we’ve seen with other Latin American countries and the Far East.
President Obama was there with his family. Cuban President Raul Castro sat alongside him. There are major differences between the countries but baseball is one common ground.
The international market is a touchy subject in the sport, as the deep-pocketed teams are the ones that benefit from the sweeping free agency and can pay the big money players are seeking to set up their families. Formulating rules for an international draft remains a pothole-filled road for the game and the players’ union to navigate but it seems inevitable it will happen.
Think of the big names of today that have already come out of Cuba through back channels: Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu. Think of all the talent that is still there. An agreement on player movement with Cuba should be a key next step for the game.