Major league baseball and the Baltimore Orioles are doing all they can to limit possible disruptions during Monday's game against Cuba.
Additional police will be assigned downtown that day to monitor and separate several planned demonstrations.
``It's ludicrous; it's ridiculous; it's not American,'' said Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who has been involved in organizing anti-Castro protests to be held in Baltimore during the evening game.
``They're being extreme. I expect this from Castro in Havana. I don't expect this from (team owner) Peter Angelos and the Orioles,'' he said.
The Orioles said strict guidelines for fan conduct will be enforced, and fans may be asked to leave, even for chanting, if it disturbs other fans.
The Orioles have also sold tickets in pairs, making it difficult for larger groups to sit together.
Team spokesman John Maroon said the banner policy is the same for every regular-season game -- banners cannot be displayed during play and political and commercial messages are not allowed.
``Those people wishing to make any kind of political statement will have every right to do so in a predetermined area outside the ballpark,'' Maroon said.
Menendez said he expects up to a thousand anti-Castro protesters from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area to board buses for Baltimore on Monday. Menendez has been an outspoken critic of the Orioles' exhibition games with Cuban teams, saying human rights abuses by the Castro regime are being overlooked.
``There is another face to these games and that face is very brutal,'' Menendez said. He noted that four dissidents who were arrested in 1997 for publicly criticizing Communist Party policy were sentenced last month to up to five years in prison.
Other groups plan demonstrations in favor of ending the four-decade U.S. embargo against Cuba, which they say hurts the island nation's people.
``I'm certainly not saying their government does not have abuses, but they certainly have the right to govern themselves, and our policy is causing harm to their people and is just as abusive,'' said Jodie Zisow of the Maryland Coalition to End the Embargo of Cuba.
Zisow said her group has distributed 500 tickets for the game to supporters.
Major league baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the commissioner's office has asked federal authorities to restrict airspace over Camden Yards to prevent aerial protests. However, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said no such request has been made.
Cuban-American pilot Jose Basulto of Miami tried to drop leaflets during the March 28 game in Havana. In that game, the first time in 40 years major leaguers played in Cuba, the Orioles beat a Cuban all-star team 3-2 in 11 innings.
Basulto, a veteran of the U.S. sponsored invasion of Cuba in 1961, said federal aviation officials conducted a surprise inspection that day, which he described as a thinly veiled delaying tactic by the Clinton administration.
FAA officials have said the inspection was not out of the ordinary.
Basulto took off toward Havana but aborted the mission because of a wind change. He did not enter Cuban airspace because pilots with his group have been shot down and killed in the past while attempting similar actions.
``We're not discounting any options,'' Basulto said of the Baltimore game, refusing to tip his hand as to whether he planned a similar protest May 3.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press