Last Tuesday, Major League Baseball (MLB) returned to Cuba for the first time since 1999. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cuban national team by a score of 4–1 in a sold-out game at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana.

The visit made history, as the narrative of increased relations between the U.S. and Cuba preceded the game. The most notable attendant was President Barack Obama, who was joined by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) director Tony Clark, Hall of Famer–to–be Derek Jeter, and native Cuban and pitching legend Luis Tiant, who threw out the first pitch.

The game itself was never out of hand for the Rays, who were led by Matt Moore’s six scoreless innings. First baseman James Loney went 2–2 with an RBI single and a two-run homer. For Cuba, their lone run came via a solo homer from veteran 3B Rudy Reyes.

For a country so deeply passionate about baseball, the game did not disappoint. It was a historic event that thousands of Cubans were able to enjoy in their home country. After the contest, President Obama spoke in Havana.

According to President Obama, it was time for the two countries to look forward as “friends, neighbors, and family.” Several times during the trip, the commander-in-chief met with current president Raul Castro. He strategically steered clear of former Cuban leader and Raul’s brother Fidel Castro, who ceded power to Raul after a decades-long regime that ravaged the Cuban community into everlasting economic and humanitarian strife.

The event was especially divisive for Cuban-Americans, who have a strong presence in Miami. During Sportscenter’s coverage of the game in Miami’s famous “Calle Ocho” neighborhood, the vibe seemed to be mostly positive, especially with the younger crowd.

This sentiment, on the other hand, was not shared by Dan Le Batard, an ESPN radio host, whose parents were born in Cuba. “My pain is very much borrowed,” Le Batard said on his radio show, hours before the game. “My grandparents and parents endured it so that my brother and I never would. It stings just the same.”

This cloud between generations continues to permeate the sports scene in Miami, and even Havana. There is hope that baseball will act as a bridge between the two countries. The past 60 years have hindered Cuba and caused a great deal of suffering to its people. MLB superstars today, like Dodger’s slugger Yasiel Puig, have gone through dangerous and illegal defection just to get into the U.S. to play at the highest level, the game they love and were born to play.

The visit to Cuba was undoubtedly played up as a celebration. As much as people associate happiness with baseball, with the President and with Jeter, strife continues in Cuba, and for Cuban-Americans.

The pain that so many people endured should not be ignored, but the positive steps forward should also be acknowledged and revered. Tuesday’s contest between the Rays and the Cuban National team seemed to ultimately ignore the struggles of the past. Even though it was a jovial celebration of two countries banding together behind the power of sport, the tensions between the two nations seem to remain omnipresent.



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