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The chosen few
Cuban government makes Orioles game invitation only
Posted: Thursday March 25, 1999 08:26 PM
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.
Grumbling began even before the rumors were confirmed Thursday.
"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."
By Thursday, before it was announced by Cuba's government-controlled media, the news was spreading throughout government workplaces, schools, parks, and along Havana's famous seawall, the Malecon.
"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.
In a city as baseball-mad as Havana, such invitations will be highly coveted.
The rustic Latinoamericano stadium built in 1946, where Sunday's game will be played, holds only 50,000.
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 Thursday.
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 importance.
"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."
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