By SIGFREDO BARROS
HAVANA (March 29, 2012) – THE re-initiation of baseball games between Cuba and the United States, 16 years after they were suspended, is scheduled for July 5, 2012, according to a letter of understanding signed by the two countries.
In a press conference with sports directors from both countries, in the Latinoamericano Stadium’s Adolfo Luque Room, it was announced that a U.S. team composed of university players, as was previously customary, will arrive in Cuba on July 4, to play a total of five games, July 5-9. Cuba will make a visit to the U.S. during the summer of 2013.
Antonio Castro, vice president of the international Baseball Association, described the signing of the letter as “a happy day for baseball, for all those who love the game.” A valuable exchange is being re-initiated at a propitious moment, providing international practice for both countries’ teams prior to the 3rd World Classic.
Paul Seiler, executive director of USA Baseball, appeared pleased with the hospitality he was shown and stated, “There is no better place for the re-initiation of these games than the Latinoamericano Stadium, a nationally and internationally recognized venue. We know of the atmosphere here during a baseball game.”
Seiler, who was accompanied by Eric Campbell, National Teams general manager and Jake Fehling, responsible for public and press relations, noted that the games will take place just days before the Haarlem Baseball Week, to which the U.S. will send the same team coming to Cuba and will offer an opportunity to prepare for this event. Also planning to compete in Haarlem are teams from Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands, current world champions, which should make the tournament very competitive.
Asked why the baseball exchanges had been ended, Seiler stated that USA Baseball made management changes in 1996 and that new officials unilaterally decided to discontinue contact with several National Federations, not only Cuba’s. Now, “We are participating in an historic moment,” declared Seiler, who has served as executive director of the amateur baseball association since 2000. He announced that the 2013 games will take place in several important U.S. cities.
Signing the agreement for Cuba was National Baseball Director Higinio Vélez.