Alexei Ramirez said “Thanks, Obama” on Tuesday afternoon without a hint of irony.
Both the White Sox shortstop and teammate Jose Abreu, who hail from Cuba, are encouraged by the recent news their homeland and the United States have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations.
The pair is hopeful the accord between the countries to renew their relationship for the first time since 1961 and reopen embassies could one day lead to a return trip home they previously thought may never be possible. Both players fled Cuba to pursue their dream of playing Major League Baseball and currently are unable to return.
“It’s something good,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “It’s very good and I just want to say ‘Thanks, Obama.’ He has been the one -- follow the leader in that category, that relationship between the countries. If it wasn’t (for my situation), I’d be there tomorrow. But it’s a process still and I have to wait until I’m able to come back.”
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Ramirez, who played center field for Cuba in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, left in September 2007 and applied for citizenship in the Dominican Republic in an attempt to become a free agent. He signed with the White Sox that offseason and debuted in 2008.
Abreu left Cuba in August 2013 and signed with the White Sox that November.
While both players’ immediate families have joined them in the U.S., many of their extended family members remain in Cuba, including Abreu’s son.
“For me that has been very difficult because while the majority of my family is here I have my son there and my family,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “With this situation, it’s something good because sooner rather than later I think I can go back and rejoin them and see themagain.
“I always thought this could happen but I never thought it would be this early, but I imagined that one moment this could happen.”
“I’m very happy.”