Friday, March 24, 2006

Major League Baseball denies Castros claims

Posted on Thu, Mar. 23, 2006

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.

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