Geneva Man a Witness to U.S.-Cuba History, Thanks to Baseball

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

Geneva Man a Witness to U.S.-Cuba History, Thanks to Baseball


Byline: Susan Sarkauskas ssarkauskas@dailyherald.com

Kevin Ibach of Geneva had a front-row seat to history when President Barack Obama attended a baseball game Tuesday in Cuba.

Better than front row, actually; he was on the field and in a special area behind home plate, in his role as director of professional scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays were in Havana to play the Cuban National Team, during the first visit to the nation by a sitting U.S. president since 1928.

While there are still political differences and difficulties between the Communist nation and the United States, when it comes to baseball, there is common ground, because Cubans love the game.

"Baseball is an international language almost," said Ibach, 37, who has traveled to the Dominican Republic and Mexico to scout players.

"Now I can add a Cuba stamp to my passport."

Ibach was promoted to his executive's role late last year. Before that, he scouted for the Rays for four years, was a Midwest scout for the Miami Marlins for seven years, and a scout for the Baltimore Orioles for seven years.

The Orioles were the last team to visit Cuba, in 1999. "I just missed Cuba by a year," said Ibach, who played baseball for Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, then college ball, then tried out for the Schaumburg Flyers, but called it quits due to an injury. His father, Bob, was a public relations director for the Cubs in the 1980s.

Opening the way

"There's just been intrigue about what they (Cuban players) could do at the big-league level," Ibach said of the trip. "Honestly, we probably did less scouting than we just did making contacts. …

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