Sunday marks the start of the Major League Baseball's spring training, in which the league's 30 teams play a month's worth of exhibition games to determine the composition of their final rosters. All of this year's games will be played in Florida and Arizona, as is the case every year. Soon, however, spring training might expand to a surprising destination: Cuba.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, MLB Player's Association chief Tony Clark divulged that the league considered holding exhibition games in the island nation this year before ultimately deciding against it. “I will say to you it is conceivable somewhere down the road that there may be a spring training game played in Cuba, but it is hard to tell at this point in time," Clark said.
The statement comes just two months after President Obama announced that the U.S. would seek to normalize ties with Cuba. And while this process will not occur overnight—the two countries have not yet established embassies in their respective capitals—the coming rapprochement between Cuba and the United States will have a pronounced effect on the sport of baseball.
Cuba is no stranger to the game. Baseball arrived on the island in the 1860s, right around the time American leagues began to professionalize, and by the early 20th century Cuban leagues were regarded as the peers of those in the United States. And, unlike Major League Baseball, Cuban leagues permitted racial integration. According to historian Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers chose to hold spring training in Havana in part because Jackie Robinson, baseball's first black player, had encountered so much racism in Florida.