Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not quite the World Baseball Classic

The idea was a pretty impressive plan, bring together some of the world's baseball superpowers for a seventeen day tournament in March. A wonderful diversion from the harsh March climate and a guaranteed television ratings winner world wide. The winning team able to lay claim as the world's premiere baseball nation.

Originally sixteen teams were named to the World Cup style pool system, working their way through the four different groups to the tournament final. Baseball nations such as Japan, The United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Korea, Dominican Republic and others where Major League Baseball mines it's players of today, were invited to assemble their best and send them off to do battle.

But as of today, one nation won't be stepping into the batters box on March 3rd, the United States government has decided to not issue travel permits for Cuba to send it's players to the inaugural tournament. The US Treasury department, citing the current trade embargo against the Communist nation has refused to allow players from the island nation to enter the USA, causing a few headaches for Baseball Classic officials and denying baseball fans the chance to see one of the top baseball producing nations send their best.

The joint venture between Major League Baseball and the Players Association had hoped to capture some of the excitement that the World Cup of Hockey and the grand daddy of World Tournaments the World Cup of Soccer generate. And it really should be a rather exciting spectacle considering the number of Non-Americans that make a career out of professional baseball.

The issue may not be final just yet though, within hours of the announcement from the Treasury Department the lobbying for it's reversal had already begun. A number of US congressmen and Senators vowed to try and make sure the World Baseball Classic included a team from Cuba.

The American position seems rather hypocritical as they don't ban Cuban teams from Internationally sanctioned events held in their country such as the Olympics or Pan Am games, for they know if they did they would never host another international event again.

It would be a welcome change for pace for the US, to officially accept Cuban participation in their national past time, especially since a good number of Cubans over the years have provided some spectacular moments for baseball. To exclude them from participation in the World Baseball Classic would only highlight their narrow mindedness and diminish the credibility of the tournament.

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