11/14/2012 11:50 AM ET
National pride and heritage take center stage as several Major Leaguers scheduled to participate in this week's World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Panama & Taiwan
Renteria, Ruiz, Damon, Lee among participating players; Hall of Famer Larkin leads Brazil
World Baseball Classic qualifiers taking place in Panama City, Panama, and New Taipei City, Taiwan, this week will feature several prominent Major Leaguers, including four All-Stars in free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz and free-agent outfielders Johnny Damon and Carlos Lee. In addition, Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera of the Yankees will serve as a baseball ambassador in his native Panama.
The qualifiers in Panama City will be played Nov. 15-19 at Rod Carew National Stadium, and will feature the national teams of Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama. Rivera, who is recovering from season-ending knee surgery in April, will take part in promotional activities throughout the week and will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the opening game between Panama and Brazil on Thursday. Panamanian native Bruce Chen of the Royals will throw out the first pitch prior to Panama's second game on Saturday night.
Overall, 13 current or former Major Leaguers will participate in the Panama qualifiers, including: Mets right-hander Manny Acosta (Panama); free-agent right-hander Manuel Corpas (Panama); Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera (Nicaragua); Indians catcher Yan Gomes (Brazil); Lee (Panama); Rangers catcher Luis Martinez (Colombia); Mariners right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (Nicaragua); Phillies right-hander J.C. Ramirez (Nicaragua); Renteria (Colombia); Ruiz (Panama); Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano (Colombia); Nationals catcher Jhonatan Solano; and Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (Panama).
Each of the four teams in Panama will be led by a former Major Leaguer, including Brazil, which will be managed by Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Larkin, who played 19 seasons as a shortstop for the Reds, currently serves as a baseball analyst for ESPN. Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly, an outfielder in the Majors for 14 seasons and a two-time All-Star, will lead his native country of Panama. Four-time All-Star Dennis Martinez, who was recently named the bullpen coach of the Astros, will skipper his native country of Nicaragua. Eduardo Perez, who played 13 seasons in the Majors and was recently named the bench coach of the Astros, will lead Colombia.
Damon, who will take the field for his mother's native country of Thailand, will headline the qualifiers in New Taipei City, Taiwan, from Nov. 15-18 at Xinzhuang Stadium, which will feature the national teams of Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand. Damon, a two-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, is currently a free agent after playing for the Indians in 2012.
"I am honored and thrilled with this opportunity to represent Thailand in the World Baseball Classic," said Damon. "This decision is an easy one because it's important to me to trace my roots by visiting the homeland of my mother. As a proud American, I truly appreciate being given the chance to share the game I love with the people of Thailand, and in the process pay tribute to my mother, who has been so supportive of my baseball dreams and pursuits. I can't wait to put that uniform on and trot out onto the field as a member of Team Thailand."
The winners of the Panama City and New Taipei City pools will advance to the 2013 World Baseball Classic in March.
Tickets for games played in Panama City are available at www.ticketplus.com.pa. Tickets for games played in New Taipei City are available at www.famiticket.com.tw and at FamilyMarts across Taiwan. Ticket information for both venues can also be found at www.worldbaseballclassic.com.
MLB Network will air the final qualifier game of the New Taipei City pool on Sunday, Nov. 18, live at 1 a.m. ET and the final qualifier game of the Panama City pool on Monday, Nov. 19, live at 8 p.m. ET. All games at each venue will be produced by World Baseball Classic, Inc., streamed live on www.worldbaseballclassic.com and televised by partners around the world. In addition, MLB Network will exclusively air all 39 games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic in the United States from March 2-19.