Sport may be competitive in nature, but the same passion that helps a team win or fans cheer –– implies an aspiration to unite with others: over a team, a city or just the love for a game. In 2016, baseball is helping to repair a broken relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, and with the help of Baseball Havana, it just might be a home run.
Until recently, a generation of people never knew a world where Cuban and American lifestyles were freely intertwined. Only a hundred miles of ocean water separates Havana, Cuba from Key West, FL. That mileage is less than the drive of Miami to Key West, or Manhattan to Philadelphia. Needless to say, America’s neighbors are close and they barely know each other.
In 1961, the United States severed its ties with Cuba amidst a tense political environment. One hundred years earlier, a different kinship existed: one where we exchanged university students, imported goods and shared our cultures — a time when travel to-and-from was welcomed. The two nations would eventually share not just a custom but also a deep love for something: baseball.
A SHORT HISTORY OF BASEBALL IN CUBA
Baseball in Cuba dates back to 1864 when students and American dockworkers introduced the game to the island. It quickly caught on and became a beloved pastime. In the 1950s, the Cincinnati Reds would make the Havana Sugar Kings their affiliated franchise team. Cuban players that excel in the MiLB and MLB would become common.
Events of the Cold War severely damaged the relationship. A set of complex and dicey rules was now in place for Cuban baseball players who wanted to play in American leagues. They’d essentially have to expel themselves from Cuba and claim citizenship elsewhere.
From 1950 and on, the sport had lost some of its luster in Cuba; professional leagues were even banned for some time. When baseball became an official summer Olympic sport in 1992, Cuba participated and not only impressed the world with their talent — they won the Gold. Cuba would win the gold medal three more times (1992, 1996, 2004) before baseball was taken off the docket in Olympic games proceeding 2008.
BASEBALL HAVANA X ’47
In 2014, major steps towards a new amnesty were taken when much of the travel restrictions for the U.S. and Cuba were dismissed. In a White House Fact Sheet, it is specifically outlined that athletic events are an acceptable reason for travel –– a move enhancing the notion that baseball is seen as a means of creating goodwill.
The Caribbean Baseball Initiative is the work of Lou Schwechheimer, a visionary and baseball executive who has seen the diplomatic potential in bringing nations of the Caribbean and the U.S. together. Through Baseball Havana he hopes to gradually restore baseball infrastructure in Cuba via trainings, seminars, events, equipment and more.
When ’47 got a call to work with this organization, we knew it was a great opportunity to be a part of progress. By providing headwear and apparel for Baseball Havana, we hope to get consumers excited to represent the reemergence of pro baseball in Cuba.
There’s still a long way to go to normalize ties between these two nations. ’47 is founded on a belief in the power of relationship building, so we’re doing our part in promoting this much-awaited union.
Show your spirit for the Caribbean Baseball Initiative by wearing something from our new collection.