Reds connection to Cuba is strong as President visits country this week

Baseball's connection to Cuba (VIDEO)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The President's trip to Cuba isn't the only thing making headlines this week.

A new chapter in baseball's storied history will be written on Tuesday as an MLB team will play a Cuban team in Havana.

While the Reds aren't the team playing in Cuba, the franchise has a long relationship with the island that is just 90 miles from America, and a lot of it is chronicled at the Reds Hall of Fame at Great American Ball Park.

"It's a great, very rich history," said Chris Eckes who is the curator of the Reds Hall of Fame.

It's a history dating back to the early 1900s when the Reds took a month-long postseason tour of Cuba and two players caught their attention, according to Eckes.

"They became two of the first players of Cuban origin to appear on a Major League roster.  Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida where their names," Eckes told FOX19 NOW.

It hasn't slowed down since.

"More often than not, you had at least one Cuban native playing for the Reds going all the way back to 1912," said Eckes.

The team's brightest stars are honored in bronze in the Reds Hall of Fame.

Among them, there are three who are of Cuban background – Dolf Luque, Leo Cardenas and Tony Perez.

"When you talk about Tony Perez, you're talking about arguably the most popular player that the Reds ever have had," said Eckes.

Fast forward to a new generation of baseball, and a new crop of Cuban Reds players.

This year, Raisel Iglesias is on the roster and fighting for a spot in the pitching rotation.

Though they are both playing for new teams, ex-Reds Brayan Pena and Aroldis Chapman are also from Cuba.

Iglesias, Pena and Chapman all defected from their home to chase the dream.

"When you see them come here and succeed, it's all the more impressive because they face a lot of obstacles that a lot of other players don't have to face," Eckes told FOX19 NOW.

As Major League Baseball returns to Cuba on Tuesday, the Reds won't be there, but perhaps their next Cuban star is and is ready to write more history.

"They've long been a favorite of Cuba because of their interaction with the island and their willingness to bring players here and make them stars," Eckes said.

To add to the Reds history and relationship with Cuban players, Eckes said the Reds had their top farm team in Havana in the 1950s, known as the Havana Sugar Kings.

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