March 29, 1999
Cuban fans delight in national team's strong showing

                  HAVANA (AP) -- Baseball fans here were delighted with Cuba's exhibition
                  game against the Baltimore Orioles, saying that even though their beloved
                  team lost, it proved it could play with major leaguers.

                  They hope for more such games, and ultimately a warming of relations
                  between Washington and Havana.

                  "It was a great show," said Raul Garcia, 40, a mechanic. "Let the other teams
                  come. Let the Yankees come!"

                  Many in this country of 11 million people followed Sunday's game on TV or

                  "Excellent Game, Victory for Baseball," the Communist Party workers'
                  newspaper, Trabajadores, trumpeted.

                  The goodwill game between the Orioles and selected Cuban players proved
                  "that it is possible to have exchanges to develop a relationship between the
                  two countries," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Parliament.

                  "I don't know how many baseball games we will have to carry out until we
                  arrive at that point. But if it takes many games, I hope we will win more
                  games than we lose."

                  More than anything, the game proved to Cubans that their players can
                  compete against the highly paid professionals in the majors. For the past 40
                  years, the Cubans always said their players were just as good, but often they
                  really weren't sure.

                  The last time a major league team played in Cuba was in March 1959, three
                  months after the triumph of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
                  The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds in that exhibition match.

                  Alarcon insisted that in Sunday's game, "both teams won" because they were
                  tied 2-2 at the end of the ninth inning and Cuba lost 3-2 only after the game
                  went into extra innings.

                  The Orioles, with a projected payroll in excess of $80 million payroll, barely
                  squeezed past a team of amateurs who earn an average of $10 a month. The
                  Cubans outhit the Orioles, 10-6.

                  The importance of the game to Cuba was demonstrated by the presence of
                  Castro, himself a former player. He watched the game from the first row
                  behind home plate, sitting between U.S. baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and
                  Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who broached the idea of the game three years

                  The game, said Alarcon, "reflected the possibilities that can exist between two
                  countries to have normal fruitful, peaceful interchanges, when based on mutual

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.