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Chavez Boasts of Wicked Curve Ball

November 16, 1999

HAVANA (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he’s ready to throw a curve ball at Cuba. And a few fastballs too.

No sooner did Chavez get off his plane in Havana than he rushed off to Havana’s Latinoamericano Stadium to get in some practice for Thursday’s game against a Cuban team coached by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

``I was throwing today and the fastball was humming. I surprised myself,″ he joked to a reporter after attending a ceremony with other Latin American presidents at a summit here Monday night.

He said he threw 50 pitches during the training session. He noted that the slugging Cuban first baseman Antonio Munoz had threatened to hit a home run off of him.

``Tell Antonio Munoz I have a curve on the outside corner. Antonio Munoz better be careful.″

Chavez, 44, also boasted of his prowess at the bat, indicating there will be no designated hitter as long as he’s pitching.

``I had two drives, two drives to the warning track,″ he said. ``I recommend that the Cuban rightfielder keep his distance, that he play back,″ Chavez added.

The planned game between the two baseball-mad countries has added spice to the Ibero-American summit here.

Venezuela expects to bring retired major leaguers such as Davey Concepcion, Vic Davalillo and Tony Armas.

Cuba on Monday announced a lineup that includes some of its most famous past and present players _ including Munoz, Victor Mesa, Evelio Hernandez and Lazaro Perez.

Castro, 73, gave an especially warm welcome to Chavez, who has expressed his admiration of the Cuban leader. ``If he has love for our people,″ he said Monday, ``I feel happy to follow the path of Fidel″ _ though apparently only after the baseball game.

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