From Herald Wire Services
Handpicked crowd cheers its president
By the time Fidel Castro had cut across the diamond to meet them Sunday,
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
the sight of their president. ``Cu-ba! Cu-ba!''
Albert Belle, Brady Anderson and the rest of the Orioles gathered around
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
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
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
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
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
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
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