Fri, Jan 27, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Castro says Cuba will go to World Baseball Classic

AP , HAVANA

Cuban President Fidel Castro confirmed on Wednesday that his country would play in the World Baseball Classic in Cuba's first official reaction to the US government's decision allowing the communist country to participate.

"We will be there, but I would never have thought I would have to answer that question," Castro told reporters who questioned him during a surprise visit on Wednesday night to a construction site outside the US Interests Section in Havana.

Still, the Cuban president warned, "that is if [the Americans] don't start in on messing around with not giving the visas, or if they go crazy."

The US government reversed course last Friday and issued the special license necessary for Cuba to play in the 16-team tournament -- part of which will be played in Puerto Rico, a US territory.

Major League Baseball's first application was denied last month by the US Treasury Department.

But the baseball commissioner's office and the players' association reapplied on Dec. 22 after Cuba said it would donate any profits it receives to victims of Hurricane Katrina -- a guarantee that the communist country would receive no financial profit from the event.

Although Castro has spoken in public numerous times since, neither he nor any other Cuban official has mentioned the US government decision allowing Cuba to play ball.

The Cuban leader said his country's team "will play clean ... to win or lose battling over there," during the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Cuba won the gold medal for baseball in the Olympic Games in 1992, 1996 and 2004, but lost in the final to the US in 2000.

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