The Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Cuba to play the Cuban National Team in Havana on Tuesday, as a symbol of the newly normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, and the pageantry was cooler than anyone really imagined. US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro were both in attendance.
President Obama arrived at Estadio Latinoamericano shortly before first pitch and joyfully greeted Cuban president Raul Castro, Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel, and shortstop-turned-Player’s-Tribune-editor Derek Jeter.
POTUS has arrived at El Estadio Latinoamericano. pic.twitter.com/PvV8kTuavu
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 22, 2016
a budding journalist getting an exclusive with the President pic.twitter.com/eXq9ROPoAl
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) March 22, 2016
— Steve Carney (@stevecarney) March 22, 2016
— MLB (@MLB) March 22, 2016
As lineups were announced, players on both teams came out of the dugout holding hands with Cuban children. A choir performed both the American and Cuban national anthems, and a flock of pigeons was released into the air (which was cooler than it sounds!). The Rays went over to Obama’s seat behind home plate to shake hands with the president, which Chris Archer took full advantage of, holding a lengthy conversation with Barack and Michelle.
— Comiskey Park Hitmen (@CPHSox) March 22, 2016
The stage is set. Major League Baseball returns to Cuba for the 1st time since 1999. pic.twitter.com/He4nQXxg7h
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) March 22, 2016
Then the game started, with Cuban defector Dayron Varona leading off for Tampa and popping up the first pitch. Some time during the first inning, we got the real highlight of the afternoon, as Obama (and Castro) joined in on the wave. Obama — who was looking sharp in those shades — went full “awkward dad” mode, while Castro was more of an oblivious grandpa.
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) March 22, 2016
Love or hate the wave, love or hate the president, love or hate Cuba, this is all pretty cool.