Tampa Bay Rays heading to Cuba for March 22 exhibition game
1st MLB team to play in Cuba since Baltimore Orioles in 1999
The Tampa Bay Rays' exhibition game against Cuba's national team in Havana on March 22 has been finalized, Major League Baseball's first trip to the communist island nation since the Baltimore Orioles played there in 1999.
MLB and the players' association announced the game Tuesday. It will be televised by ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says "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."
President Barack Obama plans to attend the exhibition game.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, tweeted the announcement Tuesday after Major League Baseball and the players' association announced arrangements had been finalized for the game against the Cuban National Team in Havana.
Manfred drew the Rays on Nov. 13 from a bin of teams that wanted to make the trip. U.S. teams played spring training games in Cuba before Fidel Castro's revolution but none appeared there from March 1959 until the Orioles faced Cuba's national team in Havana in March 1999.
Hundreds of workers were at the Latin America Stadium, built in 1946 and said to have a seating capacity of 55,000. They are fixing the roof, repairing damaged seating areas and grooming the field surface.
Workers with jackhammers broke up damaged pavement outside, and painters brightened the stadium exterior.