Let Morales play ball

BALTIMORE FANS know Andy Morales. When the Cuban national team visited Oriole Park a year ago to inflict a 12-6 humiliation on the home team, designated hitter Morales went deep in the ninth inning for three superfluous runs. Most of the fans remaining rose from their seats for a standing ovation.

Earlier in Havana, when the Orioles thankfully won, he hit and scored. He is a third baseman who could be imagined as Cal Ripken's eventual successor.


It is not to be. The Orioles are apparently not hiring stray Cubans, the better to recruit them openly in the future. Mr. Morales was found by the Coast Guard on a refugee-crammed boat near Key West and shipped back to Cuba on Wednesday.

That's because the Immigration and Naturalization Service determined he was not under threat of political persecution there. The INS is denounced for this, as it would also be if it showed favoritism to such a man over ordinary mortals.


Most U.S. citizens welcome immigrants from any country who will enrich our culture with unique gifts in physics, the violin, software engineering, baseball and the like. But a deal with Cuba is a deal. Neither Havana nor Washington want all Cubans to flee to Florida.

Part of the deal is that U.S. diplomats in Havana get to monitor treatment of those repatriated.

In the past, Fidel Castro punished ballplayers suspected of attempting to flee by banishing them from the game. Mr. Morales' family fears that may happen to him.

The INS braved the wrath of the Cuban American National Foundation by throwing back this 25-year-old star. Now let Mr. Castro keep the deal and let the guy follow his career in Cuba as far as his skills take him.

If not, the INS ought to determine the next gifted Cuban ballplayer found washed up on our shores to be facing persecution and therefore eligible for asylum and a Major League contract.