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Rays nearing government approval to play in Cuba

If it's approved by both governments

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Earlier this month, MLB had a drawing where they selected a sole team that would possibly head to Cuba and take on their national team in the Cuban capital of Havana. This would be a huge opportunity for any franchise, as well as major league baseball, and for another rare occasion we can score one for the little guys. The Rays won the Cuba

If the Rays do get to travel and play in Cuba, it would be the first time since 1999 that an affiliated baseball team played there.

Cuba used to be a spring training home for numerous franchises, but that was decades ago, before Fidel Castro's revolution in the late 1950's. In 1961, the United States severed political ties with the island country as well as an embargo not allowing any American exports to reach the isle, including most activity for major league baseball. The Orioles were the last team to visit the island nation in 1999.

Baseball has always been one of the most popular sports among the Cuban population, and over the recent years, the country has produced several big name stars, including White Sox thumper Jose Abreu, playoff star Yoenis Cespedes, and video game cover athlete Yasiel Puig, and this without the benefit of professional scouting or free passage between nations.

So last March when President Obama announced that relations with Cuba were in the process of being restored, major league baseball jumped at the chance to potentially aide the cause. With the Rays officially first in line for a series in Cuba, reporter Marc Topkin is reporting that could come as soon as 2016:

Government approvals for the late spring Cuba trip are considered likely, and expanding it to two games over three days makes it, and the necessary logistics, more worthwhile.

If all goes well, Cuba could see regular games during spring training, as well as in-season visits from major and minor league teams. If we dream big, we could even see a major league expansion team reach the island in the years to come, pushing baseball ever closer to that illustrative claim of having a World Series.