Pennsylvania and Cuba start talking about boxing, baseball exchange

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 10, 2016 11:46 AM

Marta Lidia Ruiz, the director of international relations for Cuba's National Sports Institute (second from left), talks with Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack about potential partnerships between Cuba and Pennsylvania.

(Harrisburg) -- In the past six months, it's become easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, as the Obama administration eased restrictions.

Now, Pennsylvania sees an opening as well.

In the 1970's, it was known as ping pong diplomacy with China.

Teams would play matches in both the U.S. and China, and the effort is credited with helping thaw relations.

Now, for Cuba, it involves two other sports: boxing and baseball.

A delegation from the communist country recently visited Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack.

They're hoping to start with a boxing match featuring athletes from both Cuba and Pittsburgh in July, along with a baseball game.

Stack says this is how good relationships start.

"We need to have that exchange. We like many of the products in Cuba, not to mention Cuban cigars. And so it wouldn't be bad for us to be a leader in Pennsylvania of bringing Cuban cigars here and having a way to distribute them across America," says Stack.

Stack, more seriously, also says he's planning a trip to Cuba with the state's Agriculture Secretary.

"One of the things that we always find, when you start off with sports, when people play sports together, they find out a lot more about each other. That's the common link. I think there's so many opportunities in Cuba with agriculture. The people of Cuba need our agricultural products that our great farming industry can provide," he adds.

He says working with Cuba makes sense, even with its spotty human rights record, because isolating it didn't work in the past.

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