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Bryce Harper Might Want to Start Brushing Up On His Spanish

Cuba wants the Washington Nationals to play a game in

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The thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba has apparently entered a new stage: baseball diplomacy.

Earlier this month, the White House announced President Barack Obama is planning to attend a March 22 exhibition game in Havana between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. And in an interview published Monday, Cuban national baseball commissioner Heriberto Suárez told the Washington Post he wants to have the Washington Nationals play a 2017 spring training game in Havana. He also said that the Cuban national team would like to come to Nats Park to play a game.

“It would be very good to have the Washington team here . . . and Washington has invited us to return to play there, to make it an exchange, possibly a couple weeks apart,” Suárez told the Post.

The invite came during D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) visit to Cuba. It also comes as Major League Baseball, the Cuban government, and the Obama administration work to develop a framework for Cuban citizens to sign with a big league team. Right now, the U.S. embargo against Cuba forbids the island’s players to sign directly with MLB teams; many Cubans defect to play in the majors.  

The baseball diplomacy is the latest step in a normalization process that started at the Vatican — Pope Francis was a driving force behind talks between Washington and Havana — and has now arrived at the ballpark. Baseball is wildly popular in Cuba, and a home-and-home series between the Cuban national team and the club that represents the U.S. capital would be a powerful sign that more than five decades of estrangement is fading into the past.  

Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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