For the first time since the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, a major-league team will be playing a game in Cuba as it was announced Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays will face off against the Cuban national team in Havana.
The game is scheduled for March 22 at Havana’s Estadio Latinoamericano, which has been undergoing improvements and will be ready to go for the game.
“Major League Baseball is excited to play in Cuba and to have the Tampa Bay Rays representing our 30 Clubs,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “During a time of historic change, we appreciate the constructive role afforded by our shared passion for the game, and we look forward to experiencing Cuba’s storied baseball tradition and the passion of its many loyal fans.”
The visit just so happens to coincide with the visit of President Barack Obama that will be the first trip to Cuba by an American president since 1928 as relations with Cuba continue to be restored. President Obama will likely be in attendance at the game as well.
“The Players on the Tampa Bay Rays are looking forward to visiting Cuba and playing in front of some of the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “We thank the Cuban National Team and all involved in hosting this game, as we are very excited to return to Havana to continue our efforts to strengthen the ties between our countries through our love and passion for the game of baseball.”
The plan has been in place for quite some time as commissioner Manfred picked the Rays out of a bin among other teams that also wanted to make the trip.
The Rays are scheduled to fly down to Havana following their game on March 20 then do some goodwill work on March 21 before the game on March 22.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 pm EST on March 22 and will be televised on ESPN.