Orioles not going for fun, want to beat Cuba
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles will enjoy the
sights and sounds of Cuba this weekend as guests of a country that
hasn't played host to a major league team in 40 years.
There's a baseball game to played, too. And the Orioles intend to win it.
The Cuban national team is composed of amateurs who probably aren't
as talented as the Orioles and receive far less financial compensation for
their work. In addition, the Cubans will use wooden bats instead of the
aluminum ones they've been swinging for more than two decades.
So, although it's only an exhibition game, the Orioles probably will be
embarrassed if they don't win Sunday.
"We'd better not lose," said starting pitcher Scott Erickson, who is
scheduled to throw around 100 pitches. "You don't play games to lose, even
if it's cards."
Baltimore manager Ray Miller said he expects the Cubans to treat the
exhibition as if it were the seventh game of the World Series. The Orioles, in
turn, know their chances of getting into the 1999 World Series could
collapse if Albert Belle or Will Clark gets injured.
"It's a no-win situation. My only goal going there is to play a good game
get out of there healthy," Miller said. "With the game being on national TV,
you just hope somebody doesn't gets excited and goes the extra mile and
But this isn't just another spring training game. Instead of playing before
5,000 tanning tourists in Florida, the Orioles will represent major league
baseball and the United States in front of a crowd of 50,000.
"Believe me, Ray will be managing to win and we'll be playing to win,"
catcher Lenny Webster said. "It's just an exhibition game, but we know
they're very talented."
Cuba has dominated the sport at the Olympic level but has never faced a
team with the reputation of the Orioles. By winning this game, the Cubans
would greatly enhance their standing in the world order.
"There's no question the game will be more important to them. It's really
last barometer in measuring where they are in their baseball," Orioles left
fielder B.J. Surhoff said. "They're considered the best amateur team in the
world, year-in, year-out, but the key word there is amateur."
Can mere amateurs beat a team of professionals who cumulative payroll
exceeds $80 million?
It's not entirely impossible. After all, many former Cuban players have
enjoyed success in the majors, including Tony Oliva, Tony Perez and Luis
Tiant. New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez, New York Yankees pitcher
Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Florida Marlins pitcher Livan
Hernandez are defectors currently enjoying success at the big league level.
But most Cubans never get a chance to make big money in the major
leagues - not necessarily because they lack the baseball skills, but because
they can't leave the country for a tryout.
"I'm looking forward to going there and talking to those guys, ask them
they feel and how they do it," Orioles pitcher Ricky Bones said. "I know
those guys have some talent and they should have the same right we do, to
play anywhere and play and become professional one of these days."