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Five Cubans to Play, Coach in Japan

July 6, 2002

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HAVANA (AP) _ Five Cuban baseball stars have received permission from the communist government to play or coach teams in Japan for the rest of this season, the official newspaper Granma reported Saturday.

The special permission is ``recognition of the years dedicated by these five athletes to active sports, to the glories they have given to Cuban baseball and their exemplary conduct,″ said the article in Granma, published by Cuba’s Communist Party.

Third baseman Omar Linares will play with the Chunichi Dragons. First baseman Orestes Kindelan, with nearly 400 home runs in his career, will play with the amateur team Sidas, as will second baseman Antonio Pacheco.

Outfielder Luis Ulacia will work as a coach, as will pitcher German Mesa. Granma did not say which teams they would be coaching.

There are no professional sports in Cuba and athletes depend on their federations to negotiate agreements that allow them to temporarily play with or coach teams in other countries.

But such agreements are rare. The agreement between the Cuban Baseball Federation and its counterpart in Japan is the first of its kind since 1997.

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