In today’s episode of Baseball Shorts, we pay attention to the term Dugout Diplomacy. The term refers to baseball being used as a tool to bridge a gap between two countries.
A good example of this was the 1999 series that was played between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team. Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos lobbied the United States Government for permission to hold this series for three years. Several politicians opposed the idea and attempted to block the series. Eventually, Angelos secured the approval in 1999, after a change in United States foreign policy to Cuba under President Bill Clinton, which eased travel restrictions and increased cultural exchange.
The Series would take place in Havana and Baltimore. It was the first time since 1959 that an MLB team played in Cuba. It was the first time, the Cuban national team faced an opponent composed solely of MLB players.
After the Clinton government eased travel restrictions, a variety of US politicians tried to block the series because it interfered with the US embargo against Cuba. Eventually, it was agreed that the proceeds would go to baseball programs in Cuba.
Game one of the series was won by the Orioles (3-2) in extra innings. The return in Baltimore was won by Cuba with a convincing 12-6 victory.
In 2016, the Obama Government also used baseball to thaw the relationship with Cuba. On March 22, a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team was played. For ultimate goal for MLB the game in Cuba was to emphasize the need for a system in which Cuban players can come to the United States more freely. The Rays beat the Cubans 4-1.