Rays to Play Cuban National Team in Havana: Date, Venue, Schedule and More

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2016

Members of the Tampa Bay Rays walk on a field during a spring training baseball workout in Port Charlotte, Fla., Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Cuban national team at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana on March 22, the team announced on Tuesday.

It is the first time that a major league team will play in Cuba since the 1999 Baltimore Orioles.   

Contact between the countries was all but cut off after that until U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December of 2014 that there was a "restoration of full diplomatic ties following a swap of a U.S. intelligence officer who had been held in Havana for the three remaining Cuban Five prisoners," per the Council of Foreign Relations

In July of 2015, United States and Cuban embassies opened up in each other's capitals as the relationship continued to build. This is just another step in the right direction.

Major League Baseball chose the Rays in a lottery back in November to play the possible spring training game in Cuba because there were a number of teams who were interested, per the New York TimesMichael S. Schmidt, who noted so many were interested because "of the extra visibility it would give their clubs." 

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times delved into the Rays' schedule for their historic trip: "The Rays are expected to head south after their March 20 game in Sarasota, participate in some community/goodwill events on Monday and then play on Tuesday afternoon, with the game televised by ESPN and broadcast on Rays Radio."

Per Topkin, Obama is expected to attend the game, which would make him the first United States president in "nearly" 90 years to visit Cuba.