March is a time for baseball teams everywhere to hit the diamond and prep for the upcoming season through spring training, but it’s also the time for some really cool stories to hit the mainstream, too.
One of those awesome moments came yesterday, when Tamp Bay Rays pitcher Dayron Varona saw his family for the first time in three years when the team made a trip to Cuba, giving one hell of an embrace and making it totally cool to tear up a little bit.
Varona, who isn’t on the 40-man roster so shouldn’t have even been on the plane with the team to Cuba, was able to make the trip thanks to teammates like Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and others, who lobbied for the 28-year-old to get a seat so he could be reunited with his family—which is a very cool move by those major leaguers.
It’s Varona’s first trip to his native country since defecting in 2013, and he’s looking forward to taking part in the Cuban lifestyle with his family once again, saying, “I still can’t believe it. Since I left, I haven’t heard that joy that Cuban people have.”
After playing seven professional seasons in Cuba before defecting, the outfielder hopes to get a warm reception, even though he did make the difficult choice to leave for the United States.
“Cuban fans are all the same. They’re very demanding,” Varona said. “They want you to do everything perfectly all the time. That’s their role. They cheer for you when you do well, and they’re hard on you when you don’t… I hope to get a heartfelt ovation. I don’t expect that they’ll yell anything bad,” he said. “I made a personal decision. But whatever response I get, I’ll accept it the best way possible. Being Cuban, I want the best for Cuba.”
The guy has never made it above Double-A, yet he had the chance to return to his home country and hug his family for the first time in forever, so, no matter the reception he gets from fans, I’m sure the entire experience has already been well worth it.
[H/T Next Impulse Sports, USA Today]