In March of 1999, Venezuelan shortstop Ozzie Guillen was at spring training in Florida with the Atlanta Braves. He was about to begin the 15th season of a proud and productive big-league career, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, that had included a Rookie of the Year award, three All-Star Game selections and a Gold Glove award.
If Guillen, who spent some time on the Baltimore Orioles just a year earlier, had been with the Orioles instead of the Braves in March of 1999, he would have traveled approximately 90 miles with the team to Cuba for an exhibition game against a squad of all-stars that included pitcher Jose Contreras.
Guillen would have seen Contreras pitch eight shutout innings against the Orioles, striking out 10. It’s possible Guillen did see the game, won by the Orioles 3-2 in 11 innings, because it was televised live by ESPN.
Among the 50,000 fans at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana that March day in 1999 were Orioles owner Peter Angelos and MLB commissioner Bud Selig. They were seated in the front row behind home plate, on either side of 73-year-old Fidel Castro.