Baseball impact of USA-Cuba thaw may take years

For years, every hint of a thawing in the USA-Cuba relations has been seen by baseball followers as the possible opening of the abundant market of players in the island.

That hasn’t happened, and most future major league stars who have escaped the Communist government – such as Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes – have had to endure life-threatening ordeals to reach U.S. shores.

This time those wishes of free access to that talent may finally come to pass – but not right away, and likely not for quite a while.

President Obama’s simultaneous announcement with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro that the countries would seek to normalize relations after a freeze of more than 50 years was welcome news in the baseball community, which has benefited from the influx of Cuban defectors in recent years. Five natives of the island played in July’s All-Star Game.

But while the policy changes may pave the path for expatriates to return to Cuba freely and for American visitors to travel there legally, the street doesn’t necessarily run both ways.

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