On March 23, President Obama, along with former Yankee great Derek Jeter, attended a baseball game together. Not a banner headline in and of itself as politicians rub shoulders with athletes all the time. But this game was different. This game was in Cuba.

This was the first Presidential visit to Cuba in 88 years, and it revolved around an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National team. This baseball scrimmage was designed to be the public face of a new policy aimed at normalizing relations with Cuba.

Certainly this was not without controversy. For Cuban Americans (many of whom consider themselves exiles rather than immigrants), these images coming out of Havana were understandably disconcerting. The President of the United States shaking the same hand that ordered the execution of political protesters is a tough pill to swallow. And yet it seems clear that the embargo hasn’t worked. Most political analysts would agree that sanctions have only hurt the Cuban people, while leading to no actual political change.

It's time for a new strategy to be attempted. Bridges must be built. Common ground must be sought. And for two nations separated by only 90 miles, our shared national pastime seems to be the logical place to start. Cuba has produced 100 big league players since 1959. They have won 3 gold and 2 silver Olympic medals since 1992. Despite the poverty, violence, and corruption, baseball has remained a passion for the Cuban people. To quote one of the great sports movies of all time, Field of Dreams, “the one constant through the years has been baseball.”

Baseball is not strong enough to be the cure but it can be the bridge. Just like basketball clinics in Baghdad and wrestling camps in Azerbaijan and soccer tournaments in Vietnam. These are all means to an end -- like tools in the hand of a physician. The Gospel is the only hope, not only for lasting social change, but also for eternal joy. The extravagant love of a Father who gives everything to save rebels is a powerful message. It only needs messengers and bridges. And once people hear this good news... “they will come, they will most definitely come.”
 
 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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