View Full Version : U.S. allows Cuba to participate in WBC

01-20-2006, 02:07 PM
Game on!

Major League Baseball received word on Friday that the U.S. Treasury Dept. has granted a license so Cuba can participate in the upcoming inaugural World Baseball Classic.

MLB filed the reapplication on Dec. 22, a week after the Treasury Dept. denied the initial application on financial grounds, thus initially barring Cuba from the 16-team tournament that is now set to be played from March 3-20 in the United States, Japan and Puerto Rico.

MLB has been waiting for the past two weeks for the Treasury Dept. to act. And only two days ago, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said he was "guardedly optimistic" that Cuba would be allowed to participate.

Cuba is the preeminent baseball power on the international scene and the winner of three of the four Olympic gold medals since baseball became a medal sport in 1992. They were the winners of the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the 2004 International Baseball Federation World Cup in the Netherlands. The Cubans have won the latter tournament 25 times since its inception in 1938. The IBAF World Cup is now played on a bi-annual basis and Cuba has won 12 of the last 13 gold medals dating back to 1976 (South Korea won in 1982).

Cuba has never competed against MLB players at the international tournament level and this is the first one that will include Major League players. The closest it came was splitting a pair of exhibition games against the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, losing in Havana and winning at Camden Yards.

Now Cuba will have its chance. The Cubans play the first round along with Puerto Rico, Panama and the Netherlands in Puerto Rico from March 7-10. If they are one of the top two teams in that round, they'll move on to the second round, again in San Juan from March 12-17 against the winners of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy and Australia.

The Treasury Dept. initially rejected the license for Cuba to participate because the long-standing economic embargo of that island nation "prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest," a spokesman for that department said last month.

The new application stipulated that any financial gain for the Cubans now would be made as a charitable contribution and President Fidel Castro subsequently said that those funds would be earmarked for U.S. victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The IBAF had threatened to revoke its sanction of the tournament if Cuba wasn't allowed to play. That, of course, is now moot. The other 15 teams submitted their provisional rosters of up to 60 players each this past Tuesday night with nearly 400 Major League-affiliated players in the mix. Cuba is now expected to formally accept the invitation to play in the tournament and submit a roster to the IBAF from among their players who participate internationally. Cuban exiles playing in the Major Leagues, such as Orlando Hernandez and Livan Hernandez, won't be included.