Havana, Cuba (CNN)Officials with Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation said Wednesday they had reached a deal that would allow Cuban citizens to play in the United States and return home in the offseason.
After years of sneaking out, Cuban baseball players no longer have to defect to play in MLB
For the first time Cuban players would not be forced to defect to play in the major leagues. The agreement would allow the Cuban government to claim a fee from the MLB team that hires a player.
After years of criticizing the MLB for poaching some of their best players, Cuban baseball federation officials said Wednesday they were proud of the new partnership.
"It's a historic day and we have to be happy," Cuban Baseball Federation President Higinio Velez said at a news conference at Havana's famed Latin American Stadium.
Velez said the millions generated from the deal would help rejuvenate baseball in Cuba, which was been hurt by an exodus of players and a lack of resources.
Under the new agreement players will retain their Cuban residency and ability to play with the Cuban national league.
Previously, baseball players who defected were banned by the Cuban government from returning to the island.
In the past, getting to MLB was often a dangerous route for the best players from Cuba, which dominated world amateur baseball for decades.
Some left their squads while traveling abroad with a national team, but others risked their lives by depending on smugglers to get them out. Many settled in third countries to avoid the MLB amateur draft and make the most money as free agents.