The Miami Herald
May 3, 1999
Cuban team arrives in Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- (AP) -- Cuba's national baseball team arrived in Baltimore
on Sunday night and was greeted at the airport by Orioles owner Peter
Angelos, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and baseball commissioner Bud

The plane touched down about 8:30 p.m. at Baltimore-Washington
International Airport. On his way to a secluded area where he met the players,
Angelos was asked who would win Monday night's rematch between the
Orioles and the Cubans.

``Well, we'll see tomorrow,'' he said.

Felix Wilson, deputy chief of the Cuban Interest Section, which serves as an
unofficial embassy in Washington, was upset that Angelos met with the players
while local Cuban officials were kept away from the group until after the team
cleared customs.

``Can you imagine we cannot meet the Cuban delegation?'' he said. ``This is

Ana Maria Goicoechea, a resident of Columbia, Md., who was born in Cuba,
was one of handful of people who tried to welcome the team at the airport
with a sign that said, ``Cuba Va,'' or ``Go Cuba.'' The professor of social
work at the University of Maryland at Baltimore supports the game and
improved relations with her native country.

``There was a war and it was lost by the people that are here,'' she said. ``This
is a process, a step we have to go through. Little by little, this anger will come

She compared the situation to relations between the former East and West
Germany, which were reunited in 1989.

``How could I not support them? I feel bad for this isolation my country, the
United States, is imposing on our other country, Cuba,'' she said.

The team got a Havana Airport send-off from Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

After sorting out visa problems that delayed the flight, the team boarded a
charter about 5 p.m. EDT for its exhibition game with the Baltimore Orioles on
Monday night.

However, the delay meant the Cubans had to cancel their Sunday workout at
Camden Yards and a reception in the team's honor.

The visa problems, concerning some in the delegation of more than 300, were
resolved Saturday night.

This will mark the first time a Cuban team has played a major league team in
the United States.

In the opener of this series, the Orioles beat Cuba 3-2 in 11 innings on March
28 in Havana. It was the first time in 40 years a major league team played in

In the days leading to that game, the Orioles had to scramble to get their birth
certificates, passports and visas in order. This time it was the Cubans who
were tangled in red tape.

At one point, the delay was thought to put Monday night's game in danger. But
that is no longer the case.

The Orioles will be wearing their traditional black, orange and white for the
rematch, but they'll be thinking red, white and blue.

``The important thing of every game is to win no matter what kind of uniform
you wear or who you represent,'' Orioles pitcher Ricky Bones said Sunday.
``This time we're going to represent the United States. We should go out there
with pride and try to win.''

The Orioles have struggled mightily since beating Cuba in March. The team is
in last place, the players are being booed at Camden Yards and manager Ray
Miller might not have his job by the end of the 12-game homestand Thursday.

So the Orioles can be forgiven if they don't regard the game with great

``Obviously, you'd like the club to have a day off,'' Miller said.

That's much the same attitude the Orioles carried into the first exhibition. But
shortly after the playing of both country's national anthems, their attitude

``A lot more comes into it than just you or your team. Even though we weren't
really representing the U.S., we were in a way,'' outfielder B.J. Surhoff said.
``We were one team but we were representing a whole lot of people. They
looked at it as their national team representing them.

``Down there I knew it would be really intense and they'd be into it. I'm kind
of curious to see how it's all going to play out tomorrow night.''

In the first game, many of Cuba's best players were unavailable because they
were involved in the country's playoffs. There was no such obstacle this time,
so the Orioles can expect even more competition in the rematch.

``They'll have a better team this time. They'll have better players to choose
from,'' said catcher Charles Johnson, whose two-run homer provided the
majority of Baltimore's offense in the first game.

Miller hoped to rest his starters after six innings of that game, but the close
score and high intensity caused him to stick with most of his stars for the entire
contest. He will use his regular lineup Monday with the exception of his starting

Scott Kamieniecki, who is on the disabled list, will start for Baltimore. The
Orioles can only hope the Cubans don't counter with Jose Contreras, who
allowed two hits over eight shutout innings and struck out 10 in the first game.

While many of the Orioles consider the game a distraction, they realize the
prestige associated with representing their country.

Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, whose team faced the Orioles on
Sunday, wished he could be a part of the show.

``I'd take it as an honor to manage and represent major league baseball in that
endeavor,'' he said. ``I think I would really enjoy it.''

The Orioles merely want to make the best of the situation.

``There was a lot of pride taken over in Cuba. We did everything we could to
win that game and I'm sure it will be no different over here,'' backup catcher
Lenny Webster said. ``We hope to enjoy it, but at the same time we're going
to try and beat them.''

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald