Florida's Ballard Partners, which is closely connected to the Trump White House, is doing Washington government relations and advocacy work for Major League Baseball on issues related to human trafficking.
The representation follows president Trump’s April decision to cancel the landmark deal ironed out between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation (Federación Cubana de Béisbol) in December that was specifically designed to curb human trafficking and the abuse of players.
The pact, which was an outgrowth of President Obama’s opening to Cuba, allowed for the legal transfer of FBC baseball players to the US, thus eliminating the need for them to defect at great personal risk.
The signing MLB team would have to pay a 25 percent transfer fee to the CBF based on the player’s contract.
About 350 Cuban players have defected to the US since 2014. CBF had identified 34 players who were eligible for MLB’s international draft slated for July.
MLB has similar player transfer arrangements with Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
"We stand by the goal of the agreement, which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba," MLB said last month following the president's move to scotch the deal with the CBF.
Team Trump viewed the transfer fee as a payment to Cuba’s government and a violation of the trade embargo. The move won favor among older members of Florida's Cuban-American community.
Brian Ballard, who chaired the Trump Victory fund-raising organization in Florida, is lobbying for MLB with Syl Lukis, head of BP’s Washington office.