Abreu excited about future of Cuban baseball

Abreu excited about future of Cuban baseball

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Imagine a Cuban team at a future World Baseball Classic featuring Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and Alexei Ramirez. It's a thought that has crossed the mind of Abreu, who played for Cuba in the 2013 Classic and launched three home runs.

"I hope so," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "You have to keep the faith until the end. That's your hope, and we hope that at a certain point we are able again to do it.

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"That was a wonderful opportunity. That was the point that allowed me to come here and to be here now talking with you."

Abreu defected from Cuba in August after his World Baseball Classic appearance and eventually decided upon the White Sox. The 29-year-old's excellence and quiet leadership entering a third season with the South Siders stands as a major reason why this team didn't go into full rebuild mode.

Talk of Cuban Major Leaguers playing for their home country came up recently with the Rays getting ready to play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team on Tuesday in Cuba. Abreu believes the Rays will be well-received by Cuban baseball fans, and looks at this meeting as something deeper than what happens on the diamond.

"It's a very good opportunity for the United States and the Cuban government to tie their relationship. I think that's something good," Abreu said. "And I hope in the future we can go there and play with some of the Cuban teams.

"We are taking the sport that is something everybody loves -- especially in Cuba -- to try to enhance the relationship. I feel blessed -- all the Cubans have to feel blessed -- because with our work we are able to improve that relationship and at some point make it better. That's our hope.

"People there are going to cheer for both teams," Abreu said. "No matter all the restrictions that we have there, the people know what is happening here about baseball. They are going to recognize the players, cheer for them."

Watching his friends from the United States play in the next Classic will be strange for Abreu. But he understands the situation for ballplayers that leave Cuba.

"We know all the restrictions in place right now," Abreu said. "It's a matter you have to accept."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.