BANGKOK – Johnny Damon still wants to play in the major leagues and he didn’t want his baseball goodbye to be the moment he was released by the Indians last August.
So the former Yankee and Red Sox star is playing for his mother’s home country, Thailand, in a World Baseball Classic qualifier this week. He’s not just the obvious star of the team; he’s part-ambassador, part big-league hopeful.
“I really didn’t like the way my season or possibly my career ended,” Damon said in a text message. “I would love to continue to play, but that’s not up to me, so now I’m spreading some goodwill to the game.
“And I’m doing it for my mother’s native country of Thailand, a country that has some great athletes, but needs some guidance and hope that baseball can someday be a popular sport.”
Thailand, which has no players under contract to a major-league organization, is in a pool with Chinese Taipei, New Zealand and the Phillipines. The qualifier begins Thursday in New Taipei City, Taiwan. One team will qualify for the 16-team WBC, which takes place in March.
Damon, who turned 39 on Nov. 5, played on four different big-league teams over the past four season – the Yankees, Tigers, Rays and Indians. He was released by Cleveland after batting .222 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .329 slugging percentage in 64 games. Damon, who also had four homers and 19 RBI, had hoped to be picked up by another team, but was not.