Lasorda settles into ambassador role

Lasorda settles into ambassador role

DALLAS -- Tommy Lasorda has long been referred to as baseball's greatest ambassador. Now he gets the title for real as it was announced on Monday at the World Baseball Classic news conference during the opening day of the 2005 Baseball Winter Meetings that Lasorda has been named the event's official ambassador.

"I enjoy the position that I represent," said Lasorda. "I'm going to make Baseball and the Commissioner very, very proud that they did select me, because I'm going to do the job and represent this World Baseball Classic to the best of my ability, and I'll spread it all around the world."

The Hall of Fame manager has had many honors bestowed upon him in his 56 years in professional baseball, and the chance to travel the world and spread the word about the WBC, which will take place March 3-20 in Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States with 16 teams from around the world, is an assignment he is looking forward to doing.

"My job is to alert everybody, let them know what's happening and tell everybody to support it," said Lasorda, who will be traveling to all the venues that are hosting the games. "We are looking for major crowds when these games are played. You are going to see Major League players. It's strictly Major League players from their own country. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be very interesting and I'll tell you what, you're going to see some great baseball."

International baseball is nothing new to Lasorda, who speaks fluent Spanish from his years managing winter ball in South America in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The current special advisor to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has a long relationship with Japanese and Korean baseball. Lasorda and the Dodgers toured Asia as part of the baseball friendship series in 1993. Lasorda was also at helm of the Dodgers when Korean pitcher Chan Ho Park made his Major League debut in 1994 and when Japanese hurler Hideo Nomo took baseball by storm with his remarkable rookie season in 1995.

Lasorda is entering his sixth season as a special consultant to the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese League and regularly visits Japan, where he is treated like royalty.

"I was just there six or seven months ago, when [George W. Bush] called me and asked me to represent him at the World's Fair in Japan, where 120 countries were represented," said Lasorda. "I was so proud to be able to represent my country and now to be able to go back there again, after so many visits and being there so many times, to represent the World Baseball Classic is going to be great."

Lasorda won four National League pennants and two World Series titles as the manager of the Dodgers from 1977-96, but he is still most proud of managing Team USA to the baseball gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

"Playing in the Olympics is bigger than Major League Baseball, bigger than the four World Series I managed in, it's bigger than my 50-plus years with the Dodgers and people thought I was cracking up by saying those things," said Lasorda. "I meant it sincerely because, when you win a World Championship, the Dodgers fans are happy -- but the Giants fans or Padres fans aren't. But when you win that gold medal, all of America is happy. We did something that has never been done before: We brought the gold medal where it belongs in baseball, and that is the United States of America."

National pride aside, Lasorda -- who at age 78 has the strength, endurance and enthusiasm of men half his age -- sees a bright future for International Baseball and the World Baseball Classic.

"You are going to see a lot of great players playing in this great, great tournament," said Lasorda. "I think it has finally come to pass, and for years I have said that eventually there is going to be a real World Series between the Major Leagues in the United States and the Major Leagues in Japan, and now I can see it going even further. So, I think there will finally be a Major League world team -- not in the near future, but maybe in the future."

And if that should really come to pass, baseball's WBC ambassador will be there to get everyone excited about it.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.