Major League Baseball is studying the possibility of launching a franchise in Mexico but the tantalising prospect of a team in Cuba remains distant for the time being, league commissioner Rob Manfred said on Wednesday.
Manfred told the Hollywood Reporter that officials were interested in seeing more franchises based outside the United States, with Canada and Mexico heading the queue of possible locations for new teams.
“I’d be interested in another team in Canada. We are really interested in Mexico. It’s a huge broadcast market,” Manfred said.
“If we can find the right location, it is possible to support a team in Mexico economically. And an increased flow of Mexican players into the big leagues combined with a team in Mexico would help us with the Hispanic market in the US,” he added.
Baseball is popular in parts of Mexico, and MLB matches are regularly broadcast on some channels.
Manfred meanwhile did not rule out the possibility of MLB one day launching a team in baseball-mad Cuba as relations between the United States and its bitter Cold War rival continue on their path towards full normalisation.
“I’d like to see more teams outside of the US a long-term proposition,” Manfred said.
But he cautioned: “A lot would have to happen in Cuba to get to a position where they could support a major league team economically.”
Manfred meanwhile reiterated his support for an exhibition match in Cuba involving an MLB team, saying it could happen in 2016.
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“We’re working hard to try to get to a position where we might be able to do an exhibition game in Cuba as early as 2016 — so next spring,” Manfred said.
“We think it’s important to play in Cuba for a host of reasons, including the fact that the US government thinks it’s important for us to play in Cuba.
“We also like markets where baseball is part of the culture. And it’s also is an important source of talent.”