Former Major League Baseball player and manager – and current executive director of athletics at Sacred Heart University – Bobby Valentine is reportedly under consideration to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
According to a report by WEEI Radio in Boston, where Valentine oversaw the Red Sox for a single season in 2012, the 66-year-old has had preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about the ambassadorship.
Valentine issued a statement to the Business Journal stating:
“All this talk about Japan is just speculation as far as I’m concerned, but it’s an honor to even be in the conversation. That said, I’m extremely happy at Sacred Heart University. It’s growing rapidly and is a very dynamic, exciting place to be.”
Should the Trump team be exploring a Valentine ambassadorship, it would presumably be due to Valentine’s having twice managed Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines, in 1995 and from 2004-09. During his second stint, he led the team to its first Japan Series championship in 31 years in 2005. After a conflict with Marines executives, he was fired after the ’09 season despite a petition to keep him that was signed by 112,000 Japanese fans.
His popularity overseas was due both to his innovative style of managing as well as his eagerness to learn the Japanese language, which many American baseball transplants do not.
The WEEI report noted that Valentine has known both Trump and his brother, Bob, since the early 1980s; is “very close” with transition team member Anthony Scaramucci; “is friendly” with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; and that during his time in Japan, Tom Schieffer – who was president of the Rangers during Valentine’s tenure there – was ambassador to Japan at the same time that Valentine was managing the Marines.
The current Japanese ambassador is Caroline Kennedy.
Valentine’s American playing career lasted for 10 years, during which he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the then-California Angels, San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Seattle Mariners. Six years after retiring he began his managerial career with the Texas Rangers in 1985, followed by the Marines, New York Mets, his return to the Marines and the Red Sox.
His most notable American managing achievement occurred in 2000 when he took the Mets to the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees in five games. Arguably his second-most notable episode came in 1999 when, having been ejected for arguing a call with an umpire, he returned to the dugout wearing dark glasses and a phony mustache.
A Stamford resident, Valentine has also served as that city’s director of public safety and health and as an ESPN analyst. He began his duties at Sacred Heart in Fairfield in 2013.