Iglesias dreams of opportunity to play in Cuba

Reds righty says historic game in homeland 'something incredible,' hopes for own involvement in future

Iglesias dreams of opportunity to play in Cuba

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While the Reds' clubhouse televisions showed pregame coverage of Tuesday's historic exhibition matchup between the Rays and the Cuban National Team live from Havana -- which the Rays won, 4-1 -- pitcher Raisel Iglesias was sitting at his locker with headphones on. But Iglesias appeared to have an eye on the TVs, too.

Now the lone Cuban player on the team after the offseason departures of Aroldis Chapman and Brayan Pena, Iglesias was enjoying the rare chance to see images of his home country.

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"I believe this is something incredible today," Iglesias said through translator Tomas Vera. "It's good for the people of Cuba as well as the baseball players who are part of the game today. It's good as well for the players that are here in this country. It's something really beautiful. I would love to be part of that right now."

Iglesias, 26, was born in Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, and was a member of the nation's national team and played professionally in his hometown. He left Cuba in November 2013 and became a free agent eligible to sign with a Major League team after he established residence in Haiti. The Reds signed him to a seven-year contract on June 27, 2014.

United States-Cuba relations have thawed in recent months, and the U.S. reopened its embassy on the island last year. American travel to Cuba is becoming more possible as well.

When asked if he'd like to see the Reds play in Havana, where the club once had a Triple-A affiliate in the 1950s, Iglesias smiled.

"If the opportunity comes true -- the Reds play in Cuba as Tampa Bay is doing today -- I would love to be the first to be there," Iglesias said. "I would like to be the guy there. Going back to your homeland and playing against the national team of Cuba would be something incredible. It's something players like me would like to be either with the national team or be part of the game against the national team."

Obama walks in to the stadium

Iglesias has played professionally with or against most of the players on the Cuban team. He would like to see them again, but would most like to see his father, Juan, who remains in Cuba.

"It's been four years since the last time I saw my dad," Iglesias said. "I believe that the way things are working right now, there is a possibility that Cuban players can come back to Cuba to visit our family. Hopefully one day we will be able to play for the national team as well."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.