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Anti-Communist protests take center stage during World Baseball Classic between US and Cuba

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Anti-Communist protesters gathered outside loanDepot Park ahead of the World Baseball Classic matchup between the United States and Cuba on Sunday night in Miami.

The Miami Marlins’ ballpark played host to the semifinals matchup between the two baseball juggernauts. However, before the first pitch was thrown, hundreds of protesters yelled at anyone associated with the former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to leave the community.

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Cuban Americans protest the Cuba national baseball team playing at the World Baseball Classic game, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. Cuba faces U.S. in a semifinal game.

Cuban Americans protest the Cuba national baseball team playing at the World Baseball Classic game, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. Cuba faces U.S. in a semifinal game. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The Cuban baseball team is made up of players who defected from the island and players who live there currently and are technically government employees. It is the first time the Cuban baseball team played in Miami.

“We don’t want them here,” Joe Vilela, who fled Cuba for the U.S. when he was 14, told The Associated Press. “None. People that work for the Castro family. We don’t want them. They can go any place they want. Go to New York. Go to California. Not Miami. I hope this is the last time they come here.”

Three protesters were removed from the ballpark after running on the field during the 14-2 U.S. win.

JAPANESE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PLAYERS DISCOURAGED FROM USING WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC STAR’S CELEBRATION

Demonstrators hold up signs and chant during the sixth inning of a World Baseball Classic game between Cuba and the U.S., Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami.

Demonstrators hold up signs and chant during the sixth inning of a World Baseball Classic game between Cuba and the U.S., Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In the sixth inning, a protester waved a flag that said, “Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos Del 11 de Julio.” According to the AP, the message meant “Freedom for Cuban Prisoners of July 11. The message called for the freedom of protesters who were arrested in 2021 to protest the shortages of goods, power blackouts and economic hardships.

Cuba manager Armando Johnson tried to keep the focus on the sport.

“We’re just here for baseball, for the sport,” Johnson said. “That’s what I do … I’m not a police officer.”

Johnson was asked whether it bothered him that many Cubans do not identify with the team.

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A protester runs on the field holding a Cuban flag during the eighth inning of a World Baseball Classic game between Cuba and U.S., Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami.

A protester runs on the field holding a Cuban flag during the eighth inning of a World Baseball Classic game between Cuba and U.S., Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

“It feels bad, but I don’t judge,” he added. “Like I said, everyone has his or her way of thinking. We are on the field and we come here just to play baseball and the sport. That’s what we wanted to do here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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