Johnny Damon took a lot away from the game of baseball in his 18-year career, including two World Series titles and 2,769 hits.
Damon is now looking to give back to the game of as he prepares to play for the nation of Thailand in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The 39-year-old has not signed with a Major League club for the 2013 season yet, and is using his time away to build a baseball culture in Thailand.
According to Evan Drellich of MLB.com, Damon believes that a baseball community can develop in the country — though it may take some time. The former big-leaguer predicts it may take anywhere from 10 to 20 years for Thailand to find a baseball identity, but the possibility is certainly there.
“[Baseball is] really almost non-existent [in Thailand]. Guys play softball more here,” Damon said. “This is actually very good timing that I can come out and talk about it. There are some talented guys who may have been equivalent to, [in] the U.S., … Double-A [players]. There’s still some work to do. There’s not fields for kids to go and play baseball. I think they are working on building a field closer to Bangkok now that’s going to have turf, so that’s a start. … This could be a region that’s successful in baseball.”
While Damon has been training with the Thailand team in preparation for the WBC qualifiers, he has also taken time to run baseball clinics and make goodwill visits.
Damon and team Thailand will open their WBC qualifiers on Wednesday against the Philippines at Xinzuang Stadium in Taiwan. For Damon, the WBC could provide an opportunity to show Major League teams that he is worth at least one more year in the majors. He was cut by the Cleveland Indians in August after hitting .222 in 224 plate appearances. Before he fizzled out with Cleveland, Damon had a solid 2011 campaign in Tamba Bay, hitting .261 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs.
The two-time All-Star’s phone hasn’t rung yet, but Damon has been adamant about playing at least one more season in the bigs, and hasn’t ruled out returning to either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.