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Obama, Castro on hand to watch only second MLB team to play in Cuba since 1959

By Doug G. Ware   |   March 22, 2016 at 7:01 PM
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HAVANA, March 22 (UPI) -- The leaders of the United States and Cuba -- along with the former leader of another American institution -- were on hand Tuesday to witness an historic baseball game between Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.

President Barack Obama joined his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in the stands at Estadio Latinoamericano Tuesday afternoon to watch just the second game featuring a MLB team in the island nation since the communist revolution in 1959.

The visit occurred on the tail end of Obama's historic trip to Cuba intended to improve diplomatic relations with the island, which have substantially thawed over the last 12 months.

The game, which was broadcast live by ESPN, also included other well-known figures -- such as Rachel Robinson, the widow of former player Jackie Robinson, and former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

"Americans and Cubans share a love of baseball," the White House said Tuesday. "This is yet another powerful reminder of the kinship between our peoples as well as the progress we can achieve when we leverage those natural ties."

The Rays won the game, 4-1.

"We are celebrating a union between two peoples, between the United States and Cuba. It's marvelous," Cuban resident Guillermo Gonzalez said.

The sellout crowd celebrated the landmark game with chants of "Cuba!" The fans also started the traditional "wave," which drew the participation of the first family and Castro's.

The last time a Major League Baseball team played in Cuba was 1999, when the Baltimore Orioles beat the Cuban national team, 3-2.

Obama and his family departed Cuba after the game and traveled to Argentina, where the president will spend two days and meet with President Mauricio Macri.

Obama hopes to further develop economic and political relations with the South American nation, which is home to significant anti-American sentiments.

"We, Argentines, love to hate the U.S.," Argentinian journalist Gustavo Sierra said.

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