Trump Sending Cuban Ballplayers Back To Makeshift Rafts

President Donald Trump, leader of the free world, has issued an order ending the agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation…Sad…

In January 2011, Fox News recounted stories of Cuban ballplayers, wishing for an opportunity to play in America’s Major Leagues but held captive in their homeland. The report highlighted the plight of “Arizona’s Juan Miranda and Toronto’s Yunel Escobar, who braved the sea to make their lifelong dreams come true, spending days under the hot sun and chilly nights at sea within a raft  loaded down with strangers drawn from all walks of  Cuban life.”

Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins Pitcher arrived in the U.S. on a raft like this one (Photo: The Atlantic)
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins All-Star Pitcher, arrived in the U.S. on a raft like this one (Photo: The Atlantic)

By contrast, Philadelphia Phillies relievers Jose Contreras and Danys Baez would have completely ruled out leaving Cuba on a raft had it been the only option available to them.

With Trump’s ruling, it’s back to square one and a raft as the only option available to the wealth of talent playing Cuban baseball.

Whether it’s another preemptive strike by Trump to undo anything Barack Obama accomplished during his presidency, another extension of his “we’re full” immigration policy, or simply another “I can do this because I’m the President” action, the impact flails directly in the face of Major League Baseball and its fans around the world.

Wikipedia put together a list of Cuban ballplayers who have defected from their native land seeking freedom and the opportunity to earn a decent living. The list contains 90 names, many of whom fans will easily recognize, including Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Contreras, and the late Jose Fernandez.

The price paid by these players was and remains steep. Separation from their families and the inability to return to their homeland at will added to the challenge of making it in America’s big leagues.

Reunited - Luis Sr. And Luis Jr. Tiant (Photo: Mop Up Duty)
Reunited – Luis Sr. And Luis Jr. Tiant March 2016 (Photo: Mop Up Duty)

Fans will recall that “special moment” in March 2016 when the Tampa Bay Rays played an exhibition game in Havana, traveling with a party of 145 that included ambassadors of our National Pastime, Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Dave Winfield, and Cuban natives and former Major Leaguers Jose Cardenal and Luis Tiant, both of whom relished the chance to reunite with family not seen in decades.

Ordinarily, baseball transcends politics, and for that reason, the game is referred to as our National Pastime, divorced from the conflicts inherent in a democracy. I have taken great pains to ensure Reflections On Baseball remains apolitical.

But this one is different because it reflects the bully mentality of a president who continuously acts on a whim with little or no regard for the impact those actions have on people’s lives.

A person cannot be a supporter of Donald Trump AND a fan of baseball on this one. It’s an either/or choice. We are reminded of Lord Acton’s warning that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

President Obama in Havana to watch the Ray beat the Cuban team (Photo: AP)
President Obama in Havana to watch the Ray beat the Cuban team (Photo: AP)

Mr. Trump’s use of power, if directed only at the government and political system in Cuba, could be considered legitimate. But as we have seen in struggles near the Mexican border, the net result of the President’s orders pertaining to his immigration policy is babies and children in cages.

We can say it’s only a game (baseball), so what’s the big deal? But as a citizen of this country and a passionate fan of baseball, I find no solace in the vindictive actions of my President. There’s no need for it – and I’m afraid – there seems to be no end to the spiteful nature of his character.

Now, let’s get back to baseball and a season already spilling intrigue and a release from the sad news announcement of yesterday…

The Mariners and Rays, surprising in divisions that should belong to the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox. And what about those Red Sox and Chris Sale?

Ah…feeling much better now. What say you?

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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