Cuba now appears to be focused on single game there with O's

But Angelos says his hope is to play 2nd game here

February 05, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Orioles owner Peter Angelos continues to push forward in his effort to finalize a two-game exhibition series between the Orioles and an all-star team of Cuban players, but Cuban officials appear to be focused on a single game in Havana.

"Negotiations for that probable baseball game still continue," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez yesterday.

The proposed goodwill mission received preliminary approval from the U.S. State Department more than three weeks ago, but has been bogged down in a political dispute over the distribution of the charitable proceeds.

Even if that is resolved, the game tentatively scheduled for April 3 in Baltimore could fall victim to concerns by Cuban officials about possible defections by some of Cuba's top players, but Angelos said last night that the Orioles still hope to play host to the Cuban team at Oriole Park.

"There is no change in the original proposal, which is to play one game in Havana and one at Oriole Park at Camden Yards," Angelos said.

The first exhibition game is tentatively set for March 28 at Havana's Latin American Stadium.

The trip is a hot-button issue in the Cuban-American community, enough so that several members of Congress met with baseball union chief Donald Fehr yesterday to encourage him to block the series.

The lawmakers consider the proposed goodwill mission "insensitive to the lack of human rights in Cuba," said Ivette Mendez, spokeswoman for Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

"They'd be playing and giving the world the view, `Hey, everything is OK in Cuba,' " Menendez said.

The others attending the 45-minute meeting with Fehr were Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind.; Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.; Rick Lazio, R-N.Y.; and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen are Congress' only two Cuban-Americans.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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