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, Philadelphia 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 New York Yankees will serve as a baseball ambassador in his native Panama.
The Qualifiers in Panama City, Panama will be played November 15th–19th 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 Kansas City 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: New York Mets right-handed pitcher Manny Acosta (Panama); free agent right-handed pitcher Manuel Corpas (Panama); San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera (Nicaragua); Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes (Brazil); Lee (Panama); Texas Rangers catcher Luis Martinez (Colombia); Seattle Mariners right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (Nicaragua); Phillies right-handed pitcher JC Ramirez (Nicaragua); Renteria (Colombia); Ruiz (Panama); Miami Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano (Colombia); Washington 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 Cincinnati Reds, currently serves as a baseball analyst for ESPN. San Francisco 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 Houston 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 Houston 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 November 15th–18th 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 Cleveland 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. Complete rosters for each of the eight participating teams can be found below.
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, Taiwan pool on Sunday, November 18th live at 1:00 a.m. (ET) and the final Qualifier game of the Panama City, Panama pool on Monday, November 19th live at 8:00 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 2nd-19th.