MLB players surprise Cubans on trip to Havana

via the SFGate

Several Major League Baseball players arrived to Havana over the weekend to spend a couple days touring the city and attending other events as part of a sports diplomacy program. Among the group included Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. as well as Olympic softball champion Natasha Watley and Joe Logan.

The trip, which was organized by the Boston-based Educational Travel Alliance, aims to foster ties between the United States and Cuba through “baseball diplomacy”.

When it comes to international relations, sporting and cultural exchanges have been significant in fostering relations between countries. One of the examples that IR (specifically, PD) scholars often study is “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” in the early 1970s, which helped re-establish relations between the United States and China.

In the case of Cuba, baseball has been the connection to the United States. Although the two countries do not see eye-to-eye on diplomatic matters, both share a strong love for baseball. Over the years, many Cubans have traveled outside of the country to participate in MLB, having developed a deep passion for the sport.

It is interesting to see how baseball diplomacy will influence relations between the United States and Cuba in the future. While the sporting exchange trip is not going to change diplomatic relations over night, it is definitely helping to foster ties and bridge the gap between the two countries—a change that we are already seeing. Although the U.S.’s 52-year-old embargo continues to bar most travel between the two nations, the number of Americans visiting Cuba legally on cultural, academic, athletic, and other people-to-people exchanges has increased significantly since 2011.

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