Abreu, Ramirez excited at possible exhibition games in Cuba
Cuban natives eager to play in home country, visit families
CHICAGO -- Commissioner Rob Manfred has discussed exhibition baseball games being played in Cuba potentially as early as 2016. Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu, the White Sox All-Stars and Cuban natives, would love to be part of that possible exhibition.
"I wish that could happen. I wish that I can get an invitation to go to play there and come back to my country," said Ramirez through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language announcer Billy Russo. "I've lost eight years and you can't recover that time."
"In the near future, I wish that I can be able to go back and see my son and all my family there," said Abreu, also with the assistance of Russo.
Abreu played 10 years for Cienfuegos in Cuba's Serie Nacionale before agreeing to a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox prior to the 2014 campaign. Ramirez was part of Pinar del Rio until joining the White Sox for the 2008 season. He has the second longest White Sox tenure behind John Danks on the current roster.
But with relations recently improving between the United States and Cuba, Ramirez and Abreu are hopeful that greater avenues for return will be opened. Ramirez spoke Thursday of a current Cuban law that prevents anyone who left from coming back for eight years. That time period is getting close to hitting for Ramirez, who would like to follow the same path of his friend and mentor, Jose Contreras, who made a trip to Cuba.
"This is baseball. This is sport. This is not political stuff. Nothing like that," Ramirez said. "I think that we have to be able to have that opportunity also to come back to our country."
"All the Cuban players that are playing here that cannot come back right now to Cuba, they are waiting for that moment," Abreu said. "Within that development [improved relations between the countries] is something good and exciting for all us and all of the people in Cuba."
Ramirez's parents, wife and children are with him in the United States, but he has brothers, nephews and uncles who remain in Cuba. Ramirez talks with them "almost every day," but looks forward to the chance of reuniting in person.
"They support me a lot. They give me every day some happiness," Ramirez said. "For me, that's good because sometimes we struggle trying to be connected with all of our people there."