Ceremonial first pitches and a six-member umpiring crew for the Tampa Bay Rays' historic trip to Cuba were jointly announced today by Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The Rays will play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana on Tuesday, March 22nd.
Ceremonial first pitch honors will be shared by two great Cuban right-handed pitchers: Pedro Luis Lazo, a longtime standout for the Cuban National Team and Pinar del Rio, and Luis Tiant, a three-time All-Star during his 19-year Major League career. Lazo, 42, pitched for Pinar del Rio of the Cuban National Series from 1997-2009 and was a longtime star in international competition, earning two gold medals (1996, 2004) and two silver medals (2000, 2008) in the Olympic Games. He also recorded a 4 2/3-inning win in relief in Cuba's Semi-Final victory in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. Tiant, 75, was a three-time All-Star and a four-time 20-game winner during his 19-year Major League career, most notably with the Boston Red Sox (1971-78) and the Cleveland Indians (1964-69). "El Tiante" twice led the American League in earned run average (1.60 in 1968, 1.91 in 1972) and was an anchor of Boston's pennant-winning 1975 team, for which he posted a 2-0 mark in his three starts in the memorable World Series.
A combination of Cuban and Major League Umpires has been assigned to the game. The four Cuban umpires will be Elber Ibarra (HP), Juan Jose Cuevas (2B), Jorge Luis Perez (LF) and Luis Felipe Casana (RF). The two Major League Umpires will be 23-year veteran Angel Hernandez and 17-year official Laz Diaz. Hernandez, who was born in Havana, will be the first base umpire, while Diaz, a native of Miami, will be the third base umpire.
The Rays' trip will mark the first visit to Cuba by an MLB franchise since the Baltimore Orioles played an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team on March 28, 1999. In addition to Tiant, special guests of MLB and the MLBPA will include Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Dave Winfield, former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter and Cuban native Jose Cardenal, an 18-year Major League outfielder and longtime coach in the Major Leagues. ESPN and ESPN Deportes will provide live, national coverage of the game, which will have a telecast time of 1:30 p.m. (ET). In addition, ESPN's SportsCenter will have an on-site presence in Havana on March 21st-22nd. The game will also be streamed via WatchESPN.