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Cesar's Cigar Lounge and Wine Bar, California

Smoking cigars during the World Baseball Classic in San Diego.
Alejandro Benes
Posted: March 20, 2006

(continued from page 1)

The postgame gathering with Cuban manager Higinio Velez became somewhat surreal when he detoured from answering the first question about his players wearing their "lucky" red uniforms to address a previous comment he had made that turned into a "misunderstanding." Velez had tried to explain the difference between the superstars -- "names" -- on the Dominican and U.S. teams and his group of no-names, whom he called "men." The clarification was mind-bending.

"When I said that this was a [Cuban] team made of men and not names, I didn't mean that the others were not men. They're as manly as we are; we're all men and good men and hard men and manly men," Velez said. Kinda ranks right up there with Donald Rumsfeld's "you don't know what you don't know," a quote that came out of another recent conflict.

Manliness notwithstanding -- on Sunday Velez, threatened to slap a Spanish-language TV reporter who was unrelenting in trying to interview the manager in the Cuban team's hotel -- the classic has taken on meaning beyond what has happened on the field. The Cubans, trailed by politics throughout the tournament -- a "Free Cuba" sign was held up during Saturday's game until security arrived -- mostly stay out of the public eye. Still, a U.S. immigration officer has been at the ballpark to handle any "issues" that might arise. A different kind of sign spoke to the perceived snub by 2005 American League MVP Alex Rodriguez in first deciding to play for the Dominicans, then ultimately choosing to go to bat for the United States "Tickets to the WBC: $150," the sign began. "Denying 'A-Rod' roots: $252 million. Being Dominican: Priceless."

Ultimately, that's how most of the Dominican fans were feeling early Sunday morning, around 3 o'clock, after finishing their consumption of Dominican cigars along with libations at Cesar's bar. Especially Cesar.

"I'm not disappointed," he said. "I'm proud of my team."

Tonight's first pitch is scheduled for 9:09 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN. Cuba is the home team. The next classic is scheduled for 2009.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Cesar's Cigar Lounge and Wine Bar
503 5th Avenue, in the Gaslamp Quarter
San Diego, California
Phone: 619-233-3166

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