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Loyal veterans lead Cuba

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Head Coach: None (team will be led by a "technical commission" headed by Servio Borges and Benito Camacho).

Key Players: 3B Omar Linares continues to serve as the bastion of Cuban baseball, both physically and symbolically. RHP Jose Contreras, who went 3-0, 0.98 in the Pan American Games last summer and was on the 1996 Olympic staff, leads an imposing pitching staff. He and RHP Norge Vera will be tough for anyone to beat.

How Qualified: Won the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, beating the United States 5-1.

Olympic History: Boycotted the 1984 and ’88 Olympics. Beat Chinese Taipei 11-1 for the gold medal in 1992. Beat Japan 13-9 for the gold medal in 1996.

Players With U.S. Ties: None.

Notes: In spite of continued defections, the Cuban machine keeps on rolling. When they send their best players, the Cubans still rarely lose in international competition. Their exhibition games against the Orioles last year showed the A team can play with anyone in the world. Borges, 52, managed the national team to three Pan American Games titles during the 1970s and 1980s. He has not been the leader of the national team since 1990, but this year’s squad will be familiar to him–nine members of the 1990 team are going to Sydney. Camacho has no significant experience on the international stage.

Outlook: Four years ago, defections and an aging roster had Cuba looking vulnerable. Another gold medal and four years later–in spite of the addition of professional players to the mix–everyone still regards Cuba as the team to beat.

Roster

Pitchers: Omar Ajete, Yovany Aragon, Jose Contreras, Jose Ibar, Pedro Luis Lazo, Maels Rodriguez, Lazaro Valle, Norge Luis Vera.

Catchers: Juan Manrique, Rolando Merino, Ariel Pestano.

Infielders: Danel Castro, Orestes Kindelan, Omar Linares, Oscar Macias, German Mesa, Antonio Pacheco, Gabrielle Pierre, Antonio Scull.

Outfielders: Miguel Caldes, Yobal Duenas, Yasser Gomez, Javier Mendez, Luis Ulacia.

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