The Miami Herald
March 29, 1999

             From Herald Wire Services

             `FI-DEL! FI-DEL!'

             Handpicked crowd cheers its president

             By the time Fidel Castro had cut across the diamond to meet them Sunday, the
             Baltimore Orioles could tell this meant far more than any spring training game they
             had ever played.

             ``Fi-del! Fi-del!'' the 50,000 chosen fans chanted at Estadio Latinoamericano at
             the sight of their president. ``Cu-ba! Cu-ba!''

             Albert Belle, Brady Anderson and the rest of the Orioles gathered around the
             72-year-old leader to shake hands, curious to see how he looked up close in his
             combat fatigues. Manager Ray Miller talked to Castro through an interpreter.

             Castro had not been out to the stadium for several years, but was determined not
             to miss this chance, especially since he won't be accompanying the Cuban team
             when it plays at Baltimore's Camden Yards on May 3.

             He spent about two minutes greeting the Orioles before visiting with the Cubans
             and watched the game while sitting between major league commissioner Bud Selig
             and Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

             A SEDATE AFFAIR

             Usual local color among the missing

             Missing for most of the warm, sunny afternoon were the drums, sirens, air horns,
             singing, dancing and rumba music that enveloped the ballpark from the first pitch
             during Saturday night's playoff game between the Havana Industriales and

             No cheerleaders in black spandex jumped on top of the dugouts Sunday, no
             ballgirls served coffee to the umpires during the fifth-inning break. Even the
             53-year-old stadium was spruced up -- gone were the wild dogs that usually roam
             the concourse, hoping for bits of the pork-leg sandwiches sold at concession

             The game was held in the refurbished Estadio Latinoamericano, which, like the
             Orioles' ballpark at Camden Yards, offers a panoramic view of the city beyond
             the outfield bleachers. Some fans beat the invitation-only requirement by watching
             the game from a couple of aging apartment buildings behind left field.

             ``For many years, we have been trying to have this match,'' star Cuban third
             baseman Omar Linares said through a translator. ``I'm very emotional about it.''

             The umpires were all Cubans. American League umpires refused to make the trip.


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