Tony Oliva thrilled about U.S. plan

Nine days after the disappointment of falling one vote short of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Golden Era Committee balloting, Tony Oliva had a much happier day Wednesday.

Oliva, a native of Cuba and a three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins, told "Outside the Lines" that President Barack Obama's newly announced steps toward normalizing relations between the U.S. and communist Cuba are "the best thing that can happen for the United States and Cuba and will help both countries."

The 76-year-old Oliva has three sisters and two brothers who live in Cuba. He visits the country regularly, most recently last month.

"It's hard to explain all the good things that can come from this for me and my family," Oliva said. "It's what I've been waiting for for 50 years, and, oh man, this could be great."

In Washington on Wednesday, Obama said the U.S. is re-establishing long-broken diplomatic relations with Cuba that would mark an end to America's "outdated approach" to the island nation in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of mutual hostility.

Oliva said although the news came as a surprise, he had recently heard rumors in both countries that advancements toward establishing relations soon could be on the horizon.

"I think it's going to be beautiful," said Oliva, who batted .304 in a career that spanned from 1962 to 1976, all with the Twins. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1964.

Major League Baseball said in a statement that it is monitoring the president's announcement.

"While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba," the statement read.

The players' association released its own statement: "We will watch this situation closely as it continues to unfold and we remain hopeful that today's announcement will lead to further positive developments."

Jaime Torres, who has been the agent for numerous major leaguers who have defected from Cuba, told "Outside the Lines" that "this is the beginning of something big, and I was hoping for it shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008. It's finally on the way."

However, Torres, who is based in Miami, said that "it's too early to jump up and be excited" about the potential effects on Major League Baseball.

"I've seen what MLB and the MLBPA said, but now we have to see how they proceed and what is done," he said.

And since the embargo has not yet been lifted, he said, it's unclear what the short-term ramifications of Wednesday's announcement will be.

"[Long term] I hope that Cuba's players won't be exploited as other countries' have, such as the Dominican Republic, where kids are enticed to abandon schooling [to pursue major league dreams]," Torres said.

Torres, 59, was born in Puerto Rico but said his wife and stepfather are Cuban and that he considers himself "half-Cuban by heart."

"Today has been a very emotional day, and I'm elated," he said. "I'm hopeful to eventually be able to go to Cuba and celebrate with my clients, ex-clients and their families."

As Obama spoke to Americans, Cuban President Raul Castro addressed his nation from Havana, telling the people that while the two countries still have profound differences in areas such as human rights and foreign policy, they must learn "the art of living together in a civilized manner."

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.