For several dozen reasons, President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on the first day of spring 2016 is historic. We at Right off the Bat have covered everything from baseball in Iran to (probably somewhere in this blog, certainly in discussions at Brooklyn ROTB HQ) cricket in Afghanistan.
Tho hardly scientifically based, I (Evander) am on record—having gone out on a pretty safe limb—in claiming Cuba has the greatest natural baseball talent, per capita, in the world. This includes Canada, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Venezuela.
Unless the world crumbles, in two days, on March 22, the Tampa Bay Rays will play the Cuban National Team. The president will be in attendance. It is hoped that this diplomatic meeting over baseball is the beginning not only of real-world reconciliation and peace, but also of another move toward MLB assuming international stature (maybe even a step in salvaging the decaying Hemingway library, too; after all, literature is news that stays news).
It is to be reminded, now-ailing Fidel Castro himself, more or less of the Mickey Mantle generation, was a North American pitching prospect depending whom one believes; and before attaining superstar status with the Yankees (¡yanquis!), then-svelte Ruth barnstormed the country under John McGraw, finishing with the second-highest batting average (.345—fairly close to Ruth’s career average) of anyone on the squad. (Fellow Hall of Famer Beauty Bancroft bombed .363. McGraw is likewise enshrined.)
The time? Roughly the last year a US president set foot in Cuba.
(In December 2018, the deal to put Cuba on the same prospects’ footing with Japan and South Korea has come into doubt. Thus, the fate of Cuban professionals and MLB, based on realpolitik, could end up “exactly what you may think.” There has been a tremendous “brain drain” of Cuban talent as well.)