“Since I left, I haven’t heard that joy that Cuban people have,” said Dayron Varona, the Tampa Bay Rays‘ only Cuban-born player, when speaking to USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz in his native Spanish tongue.

On Sunday evening, when the Rays touched down in Havana for an exhibition game against the Cuban national team, Varona was undoubtedly experiencing a lot of that joy.

For the first time in three years, the outfielder was reunited with his relatives.

According to Ortiz, the 28-year-old had not made the return trip to his homeland since he and his mother defected to Haiti on board a boat.

Varona made the journey back thanks in large part to Rays pitcher Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria, who advocated that he be added to the travel team despite not being a part of the 40-man roster.

Although his impact on Tuesday’s exhibition is likely to be limited, his presence as a guide for MLB‘s first Cuba-visiting team since the 1999 Baltimore Orioles could prove invaluable.

To some very delighted loved ones, however, his presence is plenty invaluable as it is.

[USA Today, h/t For The Win]

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