Today, the Tampa Bay Rays will face off against the Cuban National Team at the Estadio LatinoAmericano in Havana at 2 p.m. ET. The Rays are the first team to visit in the last 17 years. The Baltimore Orioles visited in 1999, ending a 40-year absence of the MLB in Cuba, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The Rays’ visit has already gotten off to an emotional start. Three years ago, Dayron Varona, 28, defected. He and his mother got on a Haiti-bound boat – something he’d never do again. “It was a very hard decision,” he said, according to ESPN. “Many people have asked me about it and it’s something I would never want to go through again; I’d never do it again. It was a decision in a moment of despair.”
On Sunday, the team landed in Cuba, and he saw his family for the first time in three years.
Varona signed a minor league contract with the Rays last year, and just recently received an invitation to spring camp. His teammates fought for his inclusion on the trip, and manager Kevin Cash acknowledged that Varona deserved to live through such a special moment. Today, he and his teammates will play in front of Cubans and President Barack Obama.
The game will start at 2 p.m. ET, but ESPN will start its pre-game coverage at 1:30 p.m. ET. The game can be streamed on ESPN, the WatchESPN app, and MLB.com. DRaysBay reports that MLB.com will only air the pre-game ceremonies and the first half inning. The rest of the game will only be available through MLB.tv.