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Baseball has been at the forefront of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba in the past, and now, when those relations have softened considerably over the past year, we're going to see a game played between the Cuban National Team and the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only is it in Cuba, but President Barack Obama will be in attendance in an event meant to unite two peoples and their leaders through the game they love.
The Rays will take the field against the Cuban National Team at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN, and while it's "just" an exhibition, it has far more meaning than your usual game that doesn't count in the standings. This isn't the Blue Jays returning to play at the old Expos stadium against another MLB team for some warm international fuzzies -- this is an American-based baseball team run by an American company playing against the national team of a country the United States has been at uncomfortable odds with for likely your entire life. It's not the first game between an MLB team and a Cuban one, but it could be the start of something far friendlier than what we've seen in the past between the two sides.
In the background of the symbol this game will hopefully be are negotiations that will make it easier -- and safer -- for Cuban free agents to come to America and MLB. Negotiations that will help develop baseball further in Cuba with the aid of Major League Baseball. We're already getting there thanks to recent developments, but there remains work to be done to revamp a system that's been arduous and often dangerous for the Cuban side for far too long.
- DRays Bay has everything Rays and Cuba covered, if you want to follow along before and during the game itself.
- These are five Cuban players MLB notes you'll want to keep an eye on during Tuesday's game.
- Here are projected lineups for all 30 teams on Opening Day. Some things could change due to injury or spring performance over these next two-ish weeks, but this should be a pretty good guide for what you can expect.
- For example, the Red Sox might replace Pablo Sandoval with Travis Shaw as soon as Opening Day, as John Farrell wants the best possible team on the field from the start.
- The Pirates won't have an easy road to an NL Central title in 2016, but there are certainly ways for it to happen.
- Josh Donaldson has important things to say about domestic violence.
- Franklin Gutierrez might once again have the swing that made him a special player years ago.
- The Padres are moving their retired numbers from their prominent, outfield-window home so they can fit sponsorship signage on the batter's eye. Sigh.