Ex-Cuban baseball players to arrive in Miami Sunday, but uncertain if they’ll play here

 

A group of veteran Cuban baseball players were expected to arrive in Miami Sunday night, though it's uncertain if they'll play in South Florida or anywhere else in the state.

In Miami, members of Cuba’s Industriales will meet with fans and former teammates who have defected or have gone into exile.

The retired players were scheduled to play against former teammates now living outside Cuba at Florida International University. But the university abruptly canceled the game and the organizer hasn't found another venue.

Alejandro Canton of Somos Cuba Entertainment Group said he is still trying to find a stadium where the game can be held in South Florida. If none is found, the players still plan to hold games in Tampa on Aug. 23 and 24.

“We're committed to the players from the island who have spent months preparing to play before fans in Miami," Canton said.

The Industriales are the equivalent of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. The Havana-based team was created after the 1959 revolution and meant to represent the country's workers. A number of its players have defected and gone on to play in the U.S.

In a Sunday new release, the American Civil Liberties Union again criticized FIU for canceling the game.

“FIU should be embarrassed by their misguided decision to enter into a contract and then, in the apparent face of political pressure and threats of demonstration, cancel the contract at the last minute,” said ACLU executive director Howard Simon.

Canton's idea had been to bring veteran players, all over 40, to play in Miami with and against former teammates who now live in the U.S.

The team has legions of fans and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

FIU agreed to host the game but pulled out less than a week after tickets went on sale. A spokeswoman said the game was being canceled due to a "contractual matter" but declined to elaborate.

The ACLU has filed a public records request with FIU requesting documents related to a contract the school signed agreeing to host the games.

The organization said it had "troubling evidence" the game was canceled because of fears of a hostile reaction from some community groups.

A small but vocal anti-Castro group known as Vigilia Mambisa had written to FIU, expressing its discontent over the game and asking that it be canceled. But the leader of the group said it never received a reply.

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