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Cuba Outslugs Orioles, Umpire Hits Hard Too

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The Baltimore Orioles knew the Cuban players could hit hard. What they didn’t know was that the Cuban second base umpire could hit, too.

The umpire, Cesar Valdez, body-slammed and punched an anti-Castro demonstrator in shallow center field Monday night as the Cuban all-star team embarrassed the Orioles, 12-6.

Omar Linares and Danel Castro each had four hits, and Andy Morales spread his arms wide as he steamed around the bases after a three-run homer in the ninth inning. Reliever Norge Vera pitched seven strong innings as the Cubans avenged a 3-2, 11-inning loss at Havana on March 28.

The Orioles, whose American League-worst 7-17 record belies their payroll of more than $78 million, were completely outplayed by a team whose players make a total of about $2,250.

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The crowd at Camden Yards was already booing the home team and the Cubans led, 6-3, in the rain-delayed exhibition when it became a real slugfest in the fifth inning.

An inning after three protesters ran into the outfield and were arrested, a man jumped onto the field down the right-field line. Carrying a sign that said, “Freedom--Strike Out Against Castro,” he headed toward short center.

But Valdez, one of three Cubans on the six-man umpiring crew, took exception and charged after the fan.

They tangled briefly, then Valdez lifted the fan over his head and threw him down to the ground hard. Valdez began swinging, and appeared to land a couple of blows to the man’s head before Oriole left fielder B.J. Surhoff rushed in and pulled Valdez off.

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Police said the four people who ran onto the field--all from Miami--were arrested on a charge of trespassing.

At least one of the protesters wore a T-shirt that said, “40 Years Is Too Much,” an apparent reference to Fidel Castro’s leadership of Cuba. As police led one fan past the Cuban dugout and the Cuban delegation, he yelled at them while the Cubans booed and gave him the thumbs-down sign.

There was a heavy police presence outside the ballpark to monitor demonstrations, and Immigration and Naturalization Service agents stood by just in case of potential defections.

Inside the park, fans had trouble keeping track of the Cuban hitters. Danel Castro, who scored three times, lined a triple that highlighted a four-run second inning as Cuba batted around. It was Castro’s second triple of the game.

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