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Ex-Major Leaguer Damon arrives for World Baseball Classic

Former Major League Baseball All-Star outfielder Johnny Damon arrived in Taiwan yesterday to prepare for his games this week as part of the Thai national team in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) Asian qualifying round.

Damon — whose mother is Thai, making him eligible to play for that country — has been training with Thailand's national squad since last week.

The team is scheduled to play against Taiwan, the Philippines and New Zealand at the WBC qualifiers to be held Thursday through Sunday at New Taipei's Xinzhuang Stadium.

Only the tourney's first-place finisher will advance to the first round of pool play in next year's WBC games, scheduled for March in Taichung.

Speaking to local media upon his arrival at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday afternoon, Damon said he is glad to be visiting Taiwan for the first time and is looking forward to the upcoming matchups.

Though he admitted that Thailand will struggle to stay competitive against the other Asian teams, Damon said he hopes the qualifiers can boost the sport's popularity in Thailand and also can serve as a platform for baseball exchanges in Asia.

The seasoned ex-Major Leaguer, who turned 39 last week, hit .222 in 64 games for the Cleveland Indians last season before being released on Aug. 9.

In his 18-year career, Damon accumulated 2,769 hits and claimed two World Series titles — one with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and one with the New York Yankees in 2009.

He's also waiting to see if, at his relatively old age, he will get the chance to play with a Major League club next season.

Damon was teammates with Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang during their days at the Yankees from 2006 to 2009.

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Former Major League Baseball All-Star outfielder Johnny Damon gives a thumbs-up to reporters upon his arrival at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday.

(CNA)

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