2014 Legislative Session Winner: Human rights, freedom & baseball

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In what began late in session as an unlikely amendment but quickly gained support and momentum, a legislative home run was scored by taking a stand on some of America’s most foundational values: human rights, freedom, and — yes — baseball.

Rep. Matt Gaetz joined with Rep. Jose Felix Diaz to take on yet another big issue in 2014 in this proposal to require Major League Baseball to change how Cuban players are treated if baseball wants to share in state money for stadium work.

In short, MLB allows foreign players to negotiate as free agents — yet singles-out Cuban players, prohibiting them from negotiating as free agents while still in Cuba. Those who defect to the U.S. must enter the annual amateur draft, at a substantial disadvantage to where they would have been otherwise.

These unforgiving rules have led to Cuban players to try to establish residency in a third country, such as Mexico, resulting in (not surprisingly) unwanted and dangerous entanglements with human traffickers, smugglers, and drug cartels.

The Gaetz/Diaz amendment, added to HB 7095, was embraced by Speaker Will Weatherford. Senator Anitere Flores joined on as the measure’s Senate sponsor, and did so with the support of Sen. Jack Latvala.

Behind these lawmakers’ push was Sachs Media Group, producing a website – baseballinjustice.com – a media blitz, national stories, even a response from Major League Baseball.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.