The Miami Herald
May 3, 1999
Cuban baseball fans dream of their team beating American pros

HAVANA -- (AP) -- The first game between the Baltimore Orioles and a
Cuban all-star team showed fans in this baseball-crazy Caribbean nation that
their players can compete. Now they want to know if their guys can win.

As the Monday night game at Camden Yards in Baltimore approaches,
passion about the event is spreading across the Cuban capital. There has been
no official announcement, but Cubans assume the game will be broadcast live
on government television.

``On Monday, everyone will leave work early to make sure they get home in
time for the game,'' said Gerardo Mederos, 29, an agronomist who regularly
joins other baseball fans in the Parque Central -- Havana's Central Park -- to
discuss baseball.

Before the first game, Cubans weren't sure how their players would do against
American big leaguers. But the Orioles won the first game March 28 in
Havana by just one run, 3-2 in 11 innings. The Orioles have the worst record
in the American League.

``The Orioles have a good team, but so do we,'' said William Quijano, among
the sports enthusiasts who gather in the park every day. ``Our players are
strong, big and are going to have a very powerful team of the best players in
Cuban baseball. We were not able to have that the first time.''

In the first game, many of the best players were unable to play because they
were participating in Cuba's national baseball championship series.

Among those who weren't in the lineup for the first game but are likely to be
on the roster for the exhibition in Baltimore are some of the biggest names in
Cuban baseball: second baseman Antonio Pacheco and first baseman and
designated hitter Orestes Kindelan.

First baseman Omar Linares, who played during the first game, is also likely to

``No one knows who is going to win, but we really want to win and this time
we know for sure that we have a chance,'' said Orestes Llorente, 61, an office
equipment technician who is among the most vocal amateur baseball analysts
found regularly at the park.

He said he worried that protests outside the game by those opposed to the
government of Fidel Castro would mar what is supposed to be a friendly
match between teams from two countries that have no diplomatic relations.

Llorente also was upset about the possibility of defections by Cubans during
the visit.

``That kind of thing would be very bad,'' Llorente said. ``It is a betrayal of

Almost 300 Cubans will fly to Baltimore for the rematch. The delegation
includes journalists, retired baseball players, members of youth groups and
outstanding students.

Twenty-five school-age Cubans, accompanied by a group of parents, are
scheduled to play a game Tuesday against a group of Baltimore-area Little
Leaguers -- just as a group of American youngsters played Cuban children
during their visit to Havana for the first exhibition game.

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald