The Baltimore Orioles appear set to play two exhibition games against the Cuban national team this spring. The first will be March 28 in Havana. The second will be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on one of the Orioles’ days off from Major League Baseball’s regular season in April. The deal was reached after several weeks of negotiations involving baseball officials, the Cuban government, the State Department and the White House. Two decades after “ping-pong diplomacy” helped lead the way to normalized relations between China and the United States, these two games may be the start of a similar “baseball diplomacy” effort between Washington and Havana.
Various anti-Castro groups are opposed to the games, because they adamantly against any contact with the Castro dictatorship. However, the White House has shown some backbone. It recently announced a series of steps to increase unofficial contact between Americans and Cubans – it will allow more people to send money to Cuba and will establish direct mail service between the two countries.
The pair of exhibition games will allow Americans and Cubans to compete in a game that both countries share as their national pastime. Average people from both nations will attend the games and see the “other side” without any political overtones – the two teams will just be playing ball. Politicians and diplomats should continue to allow similar low-level, non-government contact between the two nations’ peoples.
While future baseball games can’t end the Castro dictatorship or improve U.S.-Cuban relations, they can’t hurt. This kind of contact is a step toward better relations with America’s communist neighbor.