EDITORIAL – Cuba can play ball, U.S. must bring the heat

President Bush’s agreement to allow Cuba to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic spurred outrage among some in our southeastern paradise community.

“Castro is our Sadaam,” raged UM alum and Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard, in the Jan. 2 issue of ESPN the Magazine. On Friday, after news broke of Bush’s decision, a more-sedated-than-usual-sounding Le Batard lamented that this would be the equivalent of wanting to play against Hitler.

Which we did in 1936. Jesse Owens was there, and showed the world why sport is so great: It transcends conflict. Go back to 432 B.C. (and every four years thereafter), when Athens and Sparta continued the tradition of the Olympic Games despite a 30-year-long Peloponnesian War.

The arguments against Cuba’s inclusion are abundant. U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), from Miami, claimed that Castro’s agents will prevent Cuban players from escaping for the sake of their freedom (but also encouraged those players to defect anyway). Yet Cuba will have a strict limit on the number of security guards it sends. U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) claims the fact that Cubans who left to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) will not be allowed to play on Cuba’s team will prevent the team from being “wholly representative.” Other troubled countries participating in the event, like Venezuela, will allow their top MLB players to participate. While preventing defected Cuban players like Livan Hernandez from participating makes for an unfair advantage, Cuba is willfully agreeing to participate, confident in its players’ abilities. What’s more, if the issue has been that defected Cubans are so anti-Castro, why exactly would a player who left a country he so hates want to represent it? As Stephen Colbert says, “You got nailed.”

So while Le Batard and others conceded that their arguments were purely emotional, they also pointed to the importance of listening to your heart when it matters most. Which is why, when Le Batard refers to baseball as “Castro’s proudest toy”, he should understand the impact of sport: Without catalyzing conflict, defeat him.

And make his heart hurt when it matters most.