Thursday, March 23, 2006

Baseball, Hot Dogs and Propaganda!

Major League Baseball denies Castro's claims


WASHINGTON - Major League Baseball Thursday denied a claim by Cuban leader Fidel Castro that his government will donate proceeds from the World Baseball Classic to U.S. victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In a speech Tuesday, Castro boasted that the Bush administration's initial attempts to bar his country from participating in the tournament had backfired, and that Cuba's take from the tournament would go to "Katrina's martyrs.''

His comments raised eyebrows in the U.S. Treasury and State Departments, where officials had hammered out a deal with Major League Baseball: Cuba would get no money from the tournament, and no donations could be made on its behalf.

That accord between organizers of the Classic, won by Japan in a championship game against Cuba Monday, and the U.S. government was necessary to allow Cuba to take part in the first-ever World-Cup style baseball competition without contravening U.S. sanctions against the island.

Patrick Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball (MLB), which helped organized the tournament, said that the Classic's agreement with the Cuban baseball federation clearly stipulated that Cuba, unlike the other 15 participating federations, would receive none of the tournament's proceeds.

''To the contrary, at the insistence of the Treasury and the State Department, Cuba agreed, as a condition of its participation in the tournament, that "it will not receive any direct or indirect revenues and/or prize money,'' Courtney wrote in an email to the Miami Herald.

''Based on the agreement, Cuba doesn't have a cut of the proceeds from the tournament, and there is nothing for Cuba to donate,'' he added.

In fact, there's a chance none of the countries will get paid. Initial estimates put the cost of staging the 17-day, 39- game tournament at $50 million. Gene Orza of the major league players union, said the event could wind up losing money. The participating teams, Cuba included, had their expenses paid for.

Before the Havana team left San Diego, site of the championship game, Cuban spokesman Pedro Cabrera told reporters that the team would be donating tournament proceeds to Hurricane Katrina victims and asked reporters to include that in their stories. Cuban manager Higinio Velez made a similar claim before the tournament began.

U.S. officials say privately that the Bush administration would react angrily if MLB ends up making a donation from the tournament's proceeds to a Katrina charity.

No comments: