LIVESTREAM | RAYS TAKE FIELD IN CUBA
They are hoping for a home run, literally and figuratively you could say.
The Tampa Bay Rays are poised to make history becoming the first MLB team to play in Cuba since the Baltimore Orioles did it back in 1999.
"It's like hitting the lottery," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. "Of all the major league teams who wanted to be picked, we are very fortunate we got it."
Mayor Kriseman made the trip to Havana with others from his office just to see the Rays play. He said that this is not only a moment in history, but also a chance for the hometown team to put their name on the map.
Rays Manager Kevin Cash echoed that sentiment.
"It's an honor to play in front of all of these fans who are so passionate about baseball," said Cash. "Hopefully we can put on a good show with the Rays and the Cuban national team, because we just know the passion that evolves around this country in baseball.”
The team will not only be playing in front of President Obama, who is expected to spend a portion of his last full day in Cuba at the game, but also to play in front of Cuban President Raul Castro at the stadium called Estadio LatinoAmericano.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said this will also be a chance to showcase how important Cuba is to the game of baseball as we know it in the United States.
“I do know the major league players that we see that come over from Cuba are very talented players," said Longoria. "And in recent years, we have seen quite an influx of players coming over which is exciting for us and Cuba.”
Speaking of those great players, one in particular has made his way onto the Rays roster. Dayron Varona left Cuba three years ago trying to make it in the big leagues. Well now, it's all come full circle. Varona finding out the night before the team was to board a plane to the island nation that his visa had been approved and he was able to go.
Manager Cash announced Monday morning that Varona is not only here, but he will actually start in the outfield. No doubt a memory that will truly last he and his family a life time.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:30pm EST on Tuesday. ABC Action News anchor Laura Harris will be at the game and will continue her reports from Cuba on air and online.
Follow her on twitter @LauraHarrisWFTS and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheNowTampaBay