Welcome, Cubans!

Oriole Park: Baseball is only a game, but Baltimore is a tourist destination.

May 02, 1999

ONE OF the good things about the home-and-away series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national baseball team is the magnet it hands Baltimore to attract people.

So it is gratifying that the Cuban national team, along with selected fans, officials, security minders and children, are coming to Baltimore. Cuban-Americans coming from Miami or New Jersey or beyond, are equally welcome. They should have a good time, visit Fort McHenry and the Inner Harbor, dine well and take in a museum. We hope they all come back again.

The game looms as a nail-biter. Since the Orioles' 3-2 win in Havana, the Cuban team has grown stronger and the Orioles weaker. Some top Cuban players, ineligible when their clubs were in Cuba's winter league playoffs, have joined the squad. Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. and Will Clark are injured.

Some fans threaten to cause distraction. The Orioles cannot control access to Camden Yards as the Cuban authorities did, inviting whom they wished. It is not totally different, however, since most local tickets were sold to people who already buy Orioles tickets.

High security is planned and needed because of the danger of political demonstrations. Private planes should be kept out of stadium air space. Nobody should be allowed to create a disturbance inside Oriole Park. Nobody should want to. The proper place to fight U.S. policy on Cuba is an indoor arena called the U.S. Congress.

It is not unreasonable to expect Monday's visitors, however exuberant, to comport themselves as true fans of the game. It is important to remember that the most important Cuban visitors from Havana will be children. They should be treated to an experience they can treasure, whichever team wins.

Regardless of one's view of the Castro regime, it was a blessing that many Cuban fans got to see Cal Ripken play third base.

We want to see Omar Linares, undistracted by non-baseball concerns.

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