Beat them Cubans!; Baseball diplomacy: Angelos' coup is good for the game, Orioles, Cuban people and regional relations.

CONGRATULATIONS to Peter Angelos. He has overcome such hurdles barring exhibition games between the Orioles and the Cuban national team as what dates and which bats to use.

The main remaining snag -- how to use the proceeds in a manner consistent with the U.S. economic boycott of the Castro regime -- should be overcome on the terms the Cuban authorities suggest. Hurricane relief in Central America sounds fine. The State Department should accede to that. These games should be played.

Baseball is big in Cuba. The national team is too good for the U.S. college teams that challenge it and is professional by standards elsewhere. Some of its players could be in the majors today if allowed; all could be playing professionally here. Baseball is their livelihood and their passion.

No one should make these games carry too much political freight. Baseball is a kids' game played by adults, but it is not war, peace, diplomacy or chess.

The sensitivities of Cuban Americans living near the Orioles spring training site in Florida should be addressed, through candid community relations, but hawks among them should not have veto power.

The object is to have two good games for players and fans, in Havana and Oriole Park. The Orioles should field a top team and not treat this as a spring exhibition against a farm club. Cuban fans deserve to see Cal Ripken and Albert Belle, the Orioles whose names they most likely know, and a quality pitcher.

Nor should this be a trap to lure defectors. The object should be to encourage the Cuban dictator to have more such games and to eventually allow his best players to seek their fortune wherever the game is played, without sacrificing Cuban citizenship.

The cheeriest aspect of baseball news coming just after ice shut down much of Maryland is that spring training cannot be far behind.

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