Baseball, Cuba, Cuban Baseball Federation discussed on BBC World Service
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There was a stark agreement reached last Wednesday between the authorities that run professional baseball in both the US and Cuba. The Cuban baseball federation, and it's kinda part in the United States. Major league baseball have agreed to allow Cuban players to sign for the leading US teams without having to renounce they Cuban citizenship or defect. In other words in the past some top Cuban players have been smuggled off the island and taken to the US on speedboats. We joined on the line now by Mike Carlson friend of this program US born writer sports commentator once vice president of major league baseball European operations. Welcome mike. What more can tell us about this deal morning. This is this is a really huge step forward in in terms of baseball. Because baseball is one of those things that Cuba and the United. States have in common along with say, boxing and music. They're great loves, and it really unites the countries that that should be best friends historic historically, speaking. You're absolutely right that the defection process by which Cubans have come to the US to play baseball has been very haphazard. And one of the the big selling points for this deal is that it will stop things like players being literally kidnapped by the people helping them defect which happened to. Yes, you who who was playing for the dodgers last year and has just been traded away. But it goes back a long time and Cuban players used to go to international tournaments and then defect and they would go to rather than go to the United States. They would often go somewhere like the Dominican Republic where they could still play baseball. But they wouldn't be subject to baseball's amateur draft and thereby would be able to get more money. And why do you think this has happened now because u s Cuban relations are on a bit of a downturn at the moment. Yeah. But it's something that's been worked on for a number of years ever since under President Obama. And you remember President Obama went went to Cuba in two thousand sixteen when the Tampa Bay rays played the Cuban national team in Havana and the office for foreign assets control fac had basically gave baseball permission to do this discussion. And because still under terms of the American embargo. You can't literally Yuki literally can't do business in Cuba. So that it's been going on since then and the baseball and the baseball major league Baseball Players Association who also have to sign up dealt with the with the Cuban baseball federation come up with a deal that's very much like the one that baseball already has in place with Japanese professional baseball and the Korean professional baseball leagues whereby they have to pay a fee to the team or the league as well as signing the player and the. The signings are controlled by a players age and the amount of time that he spent in the league so the plus side for Cuba. Obviously is that the federation and the teams will get money for their players rather than having them defect. And they lose that embarrassing visual of players trying to leave Cuba in order in order to play baseball. The upside for major league baseball, obviously is if they get a bit of control more control over the players. It's going to cost the bless money because they'll be subject to what they call an international draft pool whereby teams have only a certain number of money amount of money that they can pay for players who aren't subject to the draft. And most importantly, like I said right at the beginning, it stops, this horrible, this horrible business of players risking being kidnapped or whatever to to come to the US to to play in the major leagues, thanks for that, Mike and briefly before you go do you? You think baseball has the power to bring Cubans and Americans together, politically, I think it actually does in a sense. But it's it's got a huge hurdle. A couple of huge hurtles Stover come right now. One, of course, is President Trump who's already referred to the deal as being part of an Obama era. Negotiation which is not a positive from his point of view. And of course, the Cuban exile community is based in Florida Florida's a very is a very important state politically because it's a swing state. It's balanced between the two parties and already Florida politicians are screaming about this and complaining that you know, it's it's it is basically recognizing Cuba. It's penalizing, Cubans and Americans. So I think there'll be a long way to go before the government actually signs off on this deal. But it would be a great thing if they could I remember a Cuban player called Victor Mesa when I was working at the Olympics in ninety two in Barcelona. Probably the best player outside the US never got to play professional baseball. His two sons defected by speed boat to the Dominican Republic and signed a contract for six million dollars for both of them with the Marlins now that compares to the last Cuban defector. Who came before them who signed a sixty million dollar contract. So basically, the money is not so great. But it's still there. And I think the lure of playing those leg Liga's may harsh as.