The Miami Herald
March 26, 1999

Cuba bars regular fans from Orioles game

             HAVANA -- (AP) -- Only people invited by the Cuban government will be able
             to attend Sunday's exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and a national
             Cuban team, a decision sure to provoke grumbling from the legions of die-hard
             baseball fanatics who are used to attending games without restriction.

             Even before the announcement, the rumor of restricted attendance had swept
             through the city, producing predictably negative reactions from ordinary Cubans.

             ``That wouldn't be fair,'' a 21-year-old fan of the hometown Industriales who gave
             his name only as Camilo said Wednesday night at a raucous playoff game at the
             Latinoamericano stadium. ``We are the true fans. We come for every game.''

             But on Thursday, the rumor became official: ``There will be no sale of tickets at
             the stadium,'' Reinaldo Calviac, director of the International Press Center, said at a
             news conference.

             ``When there are massive events like this, it is not possible that the entire public
             goes. Everything must be by invitation.''

             There was no immediate information on exactly who would be invited, but
             authorities said it was likely that the invitations would go to members of
             organizations such as government schools and sports clubs.

             The invitations will be highly coveted. Even though the rustic Latinoamericano
             stadium built in 1946 -- where Sunday's game will be played -- holds 50,000
             people, the number of baseball aficionados who will be shut out is sure to be high.
             Among those who will be allowed in on game day are about 600 journalists
             accredited for the event, including more than 400 foreigners, about 320 of them
             working for U.S. media.

             Also in attendance will be a group of 100 Baltimore-area students -- including 15
             inner-city boys from a Baltimore Jesuit middle school, who arrived in Havana on

             It will be the first time in 40 years that a Major League team has played in Cuba.
             Big leaguers used to come to the island regularly before the 1959 revolution that
             brought Fidel Castro to power.

             Because it is only an exhibition game, Cuban officials are downplaying its

             ``The most important game, the most interesting games right now in Cuba are our
             playoff games,'' Industriales coach Juan Gomez said Wednesday night before his
             team beat Isla de Juventud and earned a spot in the final, to be held after Sunday's
             exhibition game.

             ``That's the most important thing: to be national champion.''