Tuesday, January 31, 2006

PLAY BALL!


Take me out to the ballgame.

By the way there is an interesting look at Cuban baseball in the last issue of ESPN magazine.


Fidel confirms that Cuba is to participate in the Baseball World Classic
BY ANNE-MARIE GARCIA—Special for Granma International—

PRESIDENT Fidel Castro has confirmed Cuba’s participation in the Baseball World Classic scheduled for March.

“We shall be at the Baseball Classic to fight square and fair,” said Fidel during a dialogue with the press beside the José Martí Anti-imperialist Tribunal facing the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

The U.S. Treasury Department recently granted the travel licenses for the Cuban team.

Last December the U.S. government turned down the licenses. “They put their foot in it, all the world rebelled; if we are there it is because many people protested against that ridiculous rejection,” he commented.

After the initial refusal by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) based on the Treasury Department control regulations of Cuban assets, the island gave up any money that could be earned in the Classic.

MONEY FOR THE VICTIMS OF KATRINA

“The Cuban Baseball Federation is disposed to give the money due it in terms of its participation in the Classic to those affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans,” stated the letter signed by Carlos Rodríguez, president of the institution, on December 14.

The World Classic takes place from March 3 to 20 in Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States. In Group C, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama and Holland are to measure up in the first round in San Juan, from March 7.

The Cuban president, a great aficionado of sports and of baseball – a discipline that he practiced – in particular, affirmed that the Cuban side is “going to fight fair and square, to win or lose fighting there, despite the fact that they have stolen some good baseball players from us, those that they have offered millions of dollars.”

“We have demonstrated quality in world tournaments,” Fidel emphasized.

Since the entry of baseball into the Olympic program, the island’s team has won three gold medals – in 1992, 1996 and 2004 – as well as taking the World Cup organized by the International Baseball Federation.

The Cuban president also recalled “the confrontations with the Major League baseball players, who even came here.”

In 1999, Cuba shared the honors with the Baltimore Orioles: the Cubans lost 3-2 at home and won 12-6 as visitors.

Meanwhile Israel Roldán, president of the Puerto Rican Federation of this discipline, stated that Cuba and Puerto Rico are the favorites in the first round of the Classic.

The Puerto Rican leader also affirmed that everything is ready for the participation of the Cuban side.

Roldán commented that it will be an “extremely difficult” tournament for the 16 teams taking part. In addition to the C group, China, Korea, Japan and Taipei will face each other in Group A; Canada, the United States, Mexico and South Africa in Group B; and in D: Australia, Italy, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

The Puerto Rican stated that holding the Classic would repair “the error” of eliminating baseball from the Olympic program.

In the meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from February 5 through 10 in Turin, there will be a vote for baseball’s return to the program.

“One of the proposals being sought with the integration of the Classic is that all the Olympic committees of the world can see the importance, organization and acceptation of baseball so that it can once more enter the Olympic movement,” said Roldán.

In the Classic the IOC rules are to be applied in terms of anti-doping controls. “That was one of the points negotiated with the Major Leagues and they agreed,” Roldán stated.

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