If you want a further sign of the thawing relationship between Cuba and the United States, check out the Can-Am League this June.
From June 9-30, the Cuban National Team will effectively join the independent Can-Am League. The Cubans will play 19 games with three- or four-game series against all six Can-Am League clubs.
At the same time, the Japanese Shikoku Island League all-stars (an independent Japanese league) will also be playing 19 games against Can-Am League teams, giving the league a truly international feel. The Can-Am League already has teams from Canada (Quebec, Trois-Rivieres and Ottawa) and the U.S. (New Jersey, Rockland and Sussex County).
The games will not be exhibitions. All games will count in the Can-Am League standings and statistics. And there is a pretty good chance that some of the Cuban National Team's games will see them facing off against their countrymen. Last year Quebec had four Cubans—Alexei Bell, Yunieski Gurriel, Ismel Jimenez and Yordan Manduley, on the Capitales roster. The players were playing with the Cuban government's permission, much like other Cuban players head to Japan to play during the summer.
It was the Capitales’ connections to Cuban baseball that helped get the series set up. Cuba's National Team was looking for a early summer tournament to play since there is no major international tournament this summer. Because of how well the Capitales’ experiment with paying and playing Cuban players worked out over the past two seasons, they were very receptive when Quebec team president Michel Laplante proposed bringing the team to play in the Can-Am League.
The Can-Am League will pay for the Cubans’ travel expenses.
While it's not possible to know yet who will be on the roster, the roster is expected to be the Cuban National Team, so it should include a number of the best players in Cuba.
The series will begin with Cuba playing four games in Quebec from June 9-12. Cuba will face each of the Canadian teams for series before coming to the States for three more series. Cuba’s trip will wrap up with three games at New Jersey from June 28-30.
Cuba has played U.S. professionals in numerous international tournaments over the years including the World Baseball Classic, the Olympics and the currently running Premier 12 tournament. But the Cuban National Team has not played against a U.S. team since the Orioles played an exhibition in Cuba in 1999.
This is believed to be the first time a Cuban team has played a U.S. minor league team in a regular season game since the Havana Cubans left the International League in the middle of the 1960 season. The club was moved to Jersey City and renamed the Jersey City Jerseys.