The United States will permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba to represent their home country in the World Baseball Classic next year.
The decision announced Saturday in a news release by the Baseball Federation of Cuba (FCB) could be a big step in once again turning Cuba’s national team into heavy hitters on an international stage.
Major League Baseball confirmed Monday that the U.S. granted the license to FCB. It clears the way for MLB stars such as Jose Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, Randy Arozarena, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert to play for Cuba in the WBC in March if they choose to accept a potential invitation.
It’s up to each country’s national governing body to pick the players on its WBC team. Final 30-man rosters are due Feb. 7 for the WBC, which begins March 8 with Cuba facing the Netherlands in Taiwan.
While the sport of choice for much of Latin America is soccer, baseball dominates in Cuba. The island has gained fame around the world for its baseball talent.
But in recent years, hundreds of those players have defected from Cuba to play professionally elsewhere. Most notably, many have become United States residents and stars with major league teams in the U.S.
The defections are largely due to a not-so-uncommon geopolitical spat between the two seaside neighbours, leaving Cuban players stuck in the middle.
Cuban athletes competing on the island can’t earn a paycheque under the communist government, which prohibited professional sports following the Cuban revolution 60 years ago.