USA Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation announced today that their College National Team programs will resume an international friendship series for the first time since 1996. The U.S. will kick-off the renewed series by traveling to Cuba for a five-game set in 2012, scheduled for July 5-9, and Cuba has agreed to bring its National Team to the United States in the summer of 2013.
“I could not be more excited for our players and for our collegiate program as a whole,” USA Baseball executive director/CEO Eric Campbell said. “This series will be one of the highlights of our schedule each summer.”
USA Baseball records show that the U.S. and Cuba’s National Teams (U.S. professional teams did not begin competition until 1999) competed consistently each year from 1987-1996, with various friendship games played as early as the late 1970s.
The series resumes after a 16-year hiatus.
The US collegiate team was scheduled to play an eight-game series against Cuba in 1997, but it was cancelled after two small bombs exploded at the Capri and National hotels in Havana on July 12—just two days before Cuba's scheduled arrival in the U.S. Cuban officials, who laid the blame for the bomb blasts on the U.S., said the safety of Cuban players was in doubt. A rash of defections and suspension of top Cuban players hastened the Cubans' withdrawal from the series and Team USA general manager Mike Fiore said at the time, "It's going to have a long-term effect on our relationship."
The series is among those with the richest history for USA Baseball, with its collegiate All-Star games against Japan serving as the longest-running friendship series, having just completed its 38th installment in 2011.
“This is a dream come true,” said International Baseball Federation vice president Antonio Castro. Castro is the son of former Cuban president Fidel Castro. “We have been thinking about this for a long time. It will be positive for the players and fans in Cuba, and we look forward to going to the United States next year.”
The 2012 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will be led by Tennessee skipper Dave Serrano. Players will be invited over the course of the college baseball season, and the final 22-man roster will be announced on a rolling basis on USABaseball.com as players accept invitations. The team will first gather in Cary, N.C., for training on June 23.
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