Beer Can Diplomacy: Angry Fan Protests Cuba Game, Heaves Brew Into Tampa Rays Dugout

An angry fan whipped a beer can into the Tampa Bay Rays dugout Saturday night. The Rays exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was temporarily delayed while the as-yet-unnamed 60-year-old man was restrained and taken into custody. No one was injured.

The Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Cuba to play an exhibition game there against the Cuban national team several days earlier. The Tampa beer pitcher expressed his feelings about the trip.

Bradenton police charged the man with “causing a fray, trespassing and assault,” according to Associated Press reporter Rob Biertempfel.

Although police have not yet named the man, speculation is he is of Cuban descent. Beer in hand, the man made his way towards the field in the seventh inning. He then jumped a short fence behind third base and ran to the front of the Rays’ dugout. Screaming obscenities in Spanish about the Castro regime, he hurled a can of beer against the back wall of the dugout.

No beer for Barack Obama, Raul Castro
The beer-can brouhaha took place just days after President Obama’s visit to Cuba. Obama is the first U.S. president since 1928 to visit Cuba. While there, Obama took in the exhibition baseball game with Cuban President Raul Castro. The Cuban game was played without incident — and without beer. No beer is sold at Havana’s Estadio Latinoamericano. Tampa Bay beat the Cuban nationals 4-1.

Former President Fidel Castro, Raul’s brother, was not present despite his lifelong love for the game.

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marc Topkin, who was covering the Pittsburgh game for the paper, wrote that Rays’ third base coach Charlie Montoyo helped restrain the beer can protester with a bear hug.

In a post game interview, Montoyo said, “I just saw him throwing stuff to the dugout and then I realized his age so I was just holding him and I was telling him, I realized he speaks Spanish, telling him to relax. I didn’t hear what he was yelling, I just saw the two things and then I was holding him. He smelled like beer or rum or something…. To me it was an old person drunk so I felt bad for him.”

Rays’ pitcher Jake Odorizzi said, “I think it was a Cuban person, frustrated about the politics of it, I guess. He threw two beer cans. Nobody got hit. Nobody did anything. Maybe some guys got wet. It was a Cuba thing.”

2009 Beer Summit
The beer protester took a page of sorts from President Obama himself. Obama’s famous Beer Summit took place in July 2009. Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., an African American, reported a possible break-in at his home. Police officers arriving at the scene assumed he was a suspect, not the homeowner. Gates protested police behavior and was arrested by Sgt. James Crowley for disorderly conduct. The charges were quickly dropped, but the incident ignited controversy.

In the semi-private meeting that came to be known as the Beer Summit — “private,” but with photographers present — Obama cracked open a few cold beers with Gates, Crowley, and VP Joe Biden. The meeting was thought to be designed to show Obama as a conduit for reconciliation. Unfortunately, Obama marred that image early by saying the police had “acted stupidly.” He also admitted Gates was a friend and that he was probably a little biased.

Cuban-American beer can diplomacy in the U.S. has its own bias.

The assault at the Tampa Rays game unnerved player Taylor Motter.

“It just scares me,” he told Topkin. “If it was or wasn’t related to Cuba or it was or wasn’t related to MLB, I still feel like security should have been there a little more knowing that we’re on the map a little bit. But they did a good job coming to get him as quickly as possible.”

[Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]