GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Abreu’s dad temporarily purchased a black and white television the last time a major league team played in Cuba.
They couldn’t afford to attend the 1999 contest between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team. But Abreu’s father wanted to be able to watch the game with his son, then 12 years old.
So it should come as no surprise that the slugger was awed on Tuesday to watch Cuba host the Tampa Bay Rays -- on color a television from the White Sox clubhouse. President Barack Obama attended the game at Estadio Latinoamericano as the United States and Cuba continue to improve diplomatic relations.
“I am in shock right now,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “If you slap my face, I can’t believe it. That’s something great. I think that we never thought that this could happen so soon. Yes, it’s a very special, I’m very happy because (Cuban Dayron Varona of the Rays) has the opportunity to play. I hope I have the same opportunity some day.”
The exhibition played is only the second between the countries since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Abreu would have liked to have played but said he’s thrilled to have been part of Major League Baseball’s goodwill tour to Havana three months earlier. On that trip, Abreu had a chance to reunite with his son Dariel and see friends and family members he hadn’t seen since he left Cuba in 2013.
“The people in Cuba were expecting for this,” Abreu said. “They are huge baseball fans. They love baseball. This is a huge step for us, for people in Cuba and I want to thank again for President Obama for all of his kindness. He’s an outstanding man. For all the effort he has put into this, that’s huge for us.”