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For starters: Rays set to take on Cuban National Team

The Rays are set to make history this afternoon, taking on the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano in the first game played by a major-league team in Havana since 1999.

MARC TOPKIN | Times

The Rays are set to make history this afternoon, taking on the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano in the first game played by a major-league team in Havana since 1999.

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UPDATE, 10:36: Here is the Rays lineup, which, as expected, includes Cuban-born OF Dayron Varona, who has been in the spotlight all week and had an emotional reunion on Sunday night family members he didn't know when or if he would see again after leaving Cuba in 2013 on a boat to Haiti.

Rays lineup
Dayron Varona, rf
Brad Miller, ss
Evan Longoria, 3b
Corey Dickerson, dh
Logan Forsythe, 2b
Kevin Kiermaier, cf
Desmond Jennings, lf
James Loney, 1b
Rene Rivera, c
Matt Moore, p

Here are some factoids about the game:

* The Rays are the first big-league team to play in Cuba since the Orioles in 1999.
* With Barack Obama expected to be in the stands, this will be the first time the Rays have played before a sitting U.S. President.
* With Estadio Latinoamericano holding 55,000 fans (and much of it without seats), today will be one of the largest crowds the Rays have played in front of. The biggest? 55,771 at old Yankee Stadium in 2002, 55,035 again there in 2007, and 55,000 in Tokyo in 2004.
* This is the seventh time the Rays have played outside of the United States and Canada: two exhibitions in Caracas, Venezuela in 2000; two exhibitions in Mexico City in 2001, two regular-season games in Tokyo in 2004.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are set to make history this afternoon, taking on the Cuban National Team in the first game played by a major-league team in Havana since 1999.

And adding to the pomp and circumstnce, they are scheduled to have the presidents of both countries, Barack Obama and Raul Castro, on hand.

The scene at the stadium has been hectic and frenzied since early this morning.

Rays trainers and clubhouse staff were at Estadio Latinoamericano well before 8 a.m. trying to have things as set for the coaches and players as possible.

Manager Kevin Cash and most of the coaches, plus PR vice president Rick Vaughn and his staff, and some Tampa Bay media arrived shortly after 8.

There have been some small logistical issues for the team, such as getting the password for the Internet in the clubhouse and printing out the lineup card, and some larger ones such as clearing and securing the hallway adjacent to the cramped Rays clubhouse for the expected arrival of Obama.

The stadium - which holds around 55,000 - is filling up quick as it will essentially be on lockdown from 11:30 a.m. on due to Obama's arrival, with first pitch not scheduled until 1:50.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 10:45am]

    

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