Cuba tickets opened to public

4,000-10,000 to go on sale Saturday

response strong by season-ticket holders

April 21, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The long-awaited exhibition game between the Orioles and members of the Cuban National Team on May 3 will not be an "invitation only" affair. Tickets -- perhaps as many as 10,000 -- will be put on sale to the general public at noon on Saturday.

The Orioles expect to sell more than 35,000 seats to season-ticket holders and also will set aside a large block of tickets for youth groups in the Baltimore and Washington areas, but that still should leave 4,000 to 10,000 for a public sale, which will be conducted by telephone through Ticketmaster.

Though there may be a restriction on the number of tickets sold to each customer, the Orioles will not attempt to limit the sale of tickets outside the Baltimore area, which was considered by Orioles officials as a means of reducing the likelihood of any organized political demonstration inside Oriole Park during the controversial exhibition game.

"We just felt that it was a situation where Ticketmaster would be best able to handle the sale," said Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss. "The challenge is, you've got to look at the most fair and efficient way to move tickets in a relatively short time period. Our experience has been that the best way to do that is to call Ticketmaster and order tickets with a credit card and receive them by mail."

The club will not know until later this week just how many tickets will be made available on Saturday, but the response from season-ticket holders was strong enough to presume that the game will be a sellout.

The first game of the international exhibition series was played in front of a packed house at Havana's Latin American Stadium on March 28, but the tickets were distributed by Cuba's state-run sports organization to selected groups -- which called into question the game's supposedly non-political objective.

Most of the tickets at Camden Yards also have been set aside for selected groups, but that preferential treatment is based largely on season-ticket seniority, the same system used to distribute tickets to all of the Orioles' high-demand events. Prices remain the same as for regular-season games.

Protest demonstrations are expected outside the stadium on the day of the game. New Jersey congressman Bob Menendez announced Monday that a group of about 1,000 demonstrators -- representing a coalition of Cuban-American political groups known as the United Cuban Organizations -- would travel to Baltimore from New Jersey and Florida to protest the game and draw attention to the human rights abuses of the repressive Cuban government.

Menendez said that additional demonstrators are expected to travel independently to Baltimore from New York, Connecticut and other parts of Maryland.

The Orioles, who already have been the target of peaceful protests at their spring training facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., say they have no problem with lawful demonstrations outside the ballpark.

"This country was founded on the principle of freedom of speech," Foss said. "We expect that there will be protesters demonstrating peacefully in the city around this game, but we have not been contacted by this organization or the congressman. The information that we have gotten has been through the media."

Orioles officials already have met with the Baltimore Police Department to devise a security plan for the day of the game. Organized demonstrations may be confined to specific areas around the stadium, but Foss said he anticipates the locations will be clearly visible to fans attending the game and the media covering it.

"We just hope people will recognize that this is intended to be an exchange of goodwill with baseball as a centerpiece," Foss added. "The Baltimore Orioles are not making a political statement regarding the Cuban government with this game."

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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