The Nationals and Astros just finished an epic World Series battle, leaving Washington with the major league championship and a great Texas team eager for another shot next year. Both teams deserve to be congratulated for an outstanding, hard-fought series.
The Nationals appeared at a special ceremony at the White House on Monday, and in this particular year, the sight of the champions lined up outside the seat of the Free World carried with it special significance.
President Trump noted that the Nationals produced “a comeback story for the ages,” reminding us all why “baseball is truly America’s pastime.” But he could just as easily have referenced a number of other storylines that reinforce the same concept.
This was a historic World Series because both teams fielded players from Venezuela and/or Cuba. As one can imagine, their journeys to the Big Leagues did not come without hard-work and, in some cases, tremendous sacrifice. They know the sacrifice for freedom can be great.
Every Cuban player on the Astros team, for instance, got there because of courageous defections from communist Cuba.
Americans should be proud to know that President Trump and this administration are steadfast in their support of freedom and democracy for our Latin American neighbors. In June, the Trump administration announced that the Cuban regime will not be allowed to benefit from Cuban players joining the MLB.
“The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” said Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman. In other words, the MLB will not be a subsidiary for the communist regime of Cuba.
In addition, several players from Venezuela vocally supported freedom and democracy for their home country throughout the 2019 season. José Altuve of the Astros teamed up with local companies in Houston to provide needed food for malnourished children back in Venezuela. Aníbal Sánchez of the Nationals posted on his social media to express his support for Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaidó. Willson Contreras, All-Star catcher for the Chicago Cubs, is promoting “Freedom for Venezuela” shirts to build awareness of one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history — the impoverishment of Venezuela by the corrupt and authoritarian Maduro regime. Like Contreras and Aníbal Sánchez of the Nationals, many MLB players from Venezuela have publicly expressed their support for Guaido and his quest to achieve freedom for all Venezuelans.
The words and actions of players like Contreras, Sánchez, and Altuve stand in stark contrast to those of their peers in the NBA. Just last month, the NBA sided with China instead of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who simply tweeted “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The NBA decried that tweet as “regrettable,” and both all-star LeBron James and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr refused to defend the tweet. As Vice President Mike Pence noted at the time, “some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples.”
Unlike the NBA, the MLB is not trying to silence its personnel who are standing up for freedom and representing the best of America’s values at home and abroad. The Nationals players who visited the White House to celebrate their World Series championship certainly didn’t hold anything back — they were almost as enthusiastic about supporting President Trump as he was about supporting them.
In addition to a shared championship in Washington, Democrats and Republicans alike can be proud of the players on both teams for representing the best of American values. They’ve got a supporter in the White House who is backing their devotion to democracy with actions that make a difference to their players and give hope to their homelands. America once again has a league and a national pastime of which we can be proud.
John Pence (@JePence) is a Senior Adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign. He is an alumnus of The College of William & Mary and holds a law degree from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a business degree from New York University. His uncle is Vice President Mike Pence.