HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said on Saturday the United States had granted permission for some of its top ballplayers to participate in the World Baseball Classic on the national team.
Juan Reinaldo Perez Pardo, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, said in a statement that organizers of the event scheduled for March had received a license allowing Cubans currently playing in the Major Leagues or residing in the United States to join the Cuban team.
“This is a positive step, but it needs to be said it was the only just solution,” Perez Pardo said.
The team roster would be announced when details of the U.S. license were available, he added.
The team will be the first since Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution to include Cuban players from both countries.
Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told Reuters earlier this month the United States was blocking some of Cuba’s top players from participating in the Classic.
Cuba has asked several players who in recent years had defected from the Caribbean island – long famed for its baseball talent – to represent their home country in the event.
A U.S. embargo of the Cold War era and more recent sanctions prohibit or complicate business and financial transactions with Cuba. The rules make it impossible for a Cuban ballplayer to sign with a U.S. team without defecting from Cuba.
As a result, Cuba’s baseball talent has fled the country in unprecedented numbers in the past decade, emptying dugouts and denting national pride.
More than 650 Cuban ballplayers have defected to the United States and elsewhere over the past six years alone, according to reports in state-run media.
Cuba’s talented ballplayers led the country to gold medals in the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Athens in 2004, but in Tokyo in 2020 the country for the first time failed to qualify for the games.
Cuba is expected to play its first match in the classic in Taiwan on March 8.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Bradley Perrett)