Once the United States jumped out to an insurmountable lead over Cuba in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Sunday, the game was defined by protests as much as it was defined by baseball.
Following pregame protests against the Cuban government outside Miami’s loanDepot Park, a handful of protesters made their way onto the field at different points in the game.
The scene outside loanDepot, where a few dozen people have gathered to protest the Cuban national team coming to Miami. pic.twitter.com/R74UfUmaz3
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) March 19, 2023
A protester ran onto the field with a sign that translated to “Freedom for Cubans” in the sixth inning.
A protestor ran onto the field during play. He appeared to hold up a sign in center field. He was escorted off to loud cheers. pic.twitter.com/w44StRrw3n
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) March 20, 2023
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Multiple protesters ran out onto the field in the later innings. Security made a statement in the eighth, slamming a protester to the ground. Another protester took himself down by tripping near second base.
And the 4th person of the night to run on the field in protest of the Cuban government gets body slammed. #WBC2003 #WorldBaseballClassic CUBA 🇨🇺 USA 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/SEyZ54MpyL
— Josh (@joshlap19) March 20, 2023
Before the end of the game, a sign that translated to “Down the dictatorship” was unfurled behind home plate.
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While field invaders tend to generate a sarcastic cheer, the cheers for the sixth-inning protesters seemed more genuine. The crowd broke out into anti-Cuban government chants at various points Sunday.
U.S.-Cuba relations and baseball
The increased tension at this year’s World Baseball Classic is the result of relations between the United States and Cuba. Sunday night marked the first time since 1959 that the Cuban national team played in Miami, which has a large Cuban population.
The team needed permission from the U.S. to play within its borders, as a decades-old trade embargo against Cuba prevents the two nations from doing business. As a result, players have had to leave Cuba and establish residency elsewhere to play for MLB teams. Cuba, in turn, didn’t allow those players to represent the country until this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Many prominent players declined the chance to play for Cuba despite the relaxed rules. One, Randy Arozarena, chose to play for Mexico instead. White Sox standouts Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are among those who decided to play for their home nation.
While the protesters made their presence felt on Sunday night, it doesn’t appear they will be back for the World Baseball Classic final. Team Cuba was eliminated 14-2, falling two wins short of a championship.