Lasorda back as Classic ambassador

Lasorda back as Classic ambassador

LAS VEGAS -- The World Baseball Classic is back in 2009, and so is Tommy Lasorda as its Global Ambassador.

"So when you guys see me," Lasorda said at Wednesday's press conference, "I'd appreciate if you call me 'Mr. Ambassador.' "

The Dodgers Hall of Famer will serve as a spokesman to increase awareness of the tournament -- as he did in its inaugural version in 2006 -- and will travel to host cities in an effort to help promote the event and growth of the game of baseball internationally.

"I'm honored they selected me," he said. "Anything I can do for my country, I'm always ready. My purpose is to bring people to see it played. The first time, I visited Tokyo, Phoenix, Orlando and Puerto Rico. The finals in San Diego, we sold 28,000 tickets. We feel we'll get more people this time because they know about it."

For Lasorda, who enters his 60th season in the Dodgers' organization in 2009, this kind of work comes naturally. Even before his retirement from the dugout, he worked tirelessly to promote the game and took on the role of the sport's ambassador before anybody made it official.

"Tommy Lasorda is the ideal individual to be given the honor of Global Ambassador for the World Baseball Classic," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "Tommy has played a key role in the globalization of baseball throughout his career, promoting the game in 22 countries as well as playing or managing in 14 of the 16 participating countries. His presence will provide tremendous support for the tournament, and I am delighted that he will once again be a part of it."

"Tommy Lasorda is known around the world as a great representative of the game, and his enthusiasm and passion will serve him well as spokesman for the World Baseball Classic," said Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald M. Fehr.

Lasorda pitched in the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954-55) and the Kansas City Athletics (1956) before going on to a decorated career in the Dodgers' organization. He managed Los Angeles to two World Series championships (1981 and 1988) and eight division titles from 1976-1996. After being elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997, he led Team USA to its first gold medal in Olympic play in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. He is entering his fourth season with the Dodgers as special advisor to the chairman.

In 2002, he threw out the first pitch in the first World Series of the China Baseball League in Beijing. Lasorda, who pitched in Montreal for eight seasons before pitching in the Majors with Brooklyn, was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Last week, he was honored in Los Angeles by the Emperor of Japan and was given the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette" for his efforts in the development of Japanese baseball and his work to build a bridge between American and Japanese baseball for parts of five decades, while spreading goodwill through the respective countries' love of the game.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.