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IMG Academy baseball program alum to participate in World Baseball Classic

Indians prospect Paolo Espino
Indians prospect Paolo Espino

The IMG Academy baseball program would like to congratulate Damaso and Paolo Espino on representing Panama in the World Baseball Classic. The two cousins have close ties to the IMG Academy baseball program Academy. Paolo attended the academy for 2 years during his junior and senior year of high school. Paolo was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of The IMG Academy School. Damaso has spent time training at the IMG Academy baseball program Academy since 2001. Both players are currently playing in the Cleveland Indians organization. Paolo finished the 2008 season with the Lake County Captains of the South Atlantic League. Damaso finished the 2008 season with the Akron Aeros of the Eastern League. This will be their second World Baseball Classic, both players played for Panama during the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. Panama will compete in Pool D against the Dominican Republic, Kingdom of Netherlands, and Puerto Rico. Games will be played March 5th - 12th in San Juan, Puerto Rico with two teams advancing from each Pool. Lisa Winston featured the two leading up to the World Baseball Classic. A sample of the linked article.

In fact, Diaz was a coach and the Latin American Liaison with Cincinnati when Damaso Espino first signed as a teenager. He also got to see Paolo pitch in high school in Panama.

"We didn't sign him at that point but we told him he had good tools and other options, among them coming to the United States to finish high school," Diaz recalled. "It was one of those cases where we thought that would be his best option."

Both cousins already have significant national team experience with Panama, including having played for their country in the inaugural '06 World Baseball Classic.

Paolo also pitched for Panama in the '04 World Junior Championships, where he struck out 16 batters in 9 1/3 innings, as well as having pitched for them in the Olympic qualifying tournament and the Caribbean Games as a teenager in '06.

"Any time you get that kind of exposure and competition, it's good for you and it has to help you in your ups and downs in the Minors," said Diaz of the opportunity for the club's prospects to participate in international competition. "Even Winter ball is very helpful in your development in the Minors."

Damaso Espino's versatility, along with his outstanding makeup, are his two strongest attributes and will come into play as the Indians determine whether he'll start the '09 season at Double-A Akron or Triple-A Columbus.

The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories. In March 2006, 486 players - 235 of them from MLB organizations - representing 16 teams from across the globe competed in the inaugural event. More than 740,000 fans from 48 states and 15 countries attended games - 16 of which sold out - and millions more watched on TV as Team Japan was crowned the first-ever World Baseball Classic Champion. Broadcast by 48 media outlets in 10 languages to 205 countries and territories around the world, the inaugural tournament had 50 official sponsors and 21 official licensees. Media members representing 25 different nations attended the 39 games in seven host venues across three countries/territories. The next tournament will be held in March 2009 and will again feature 16 of the greatest baseball-playing nations in the world. The tournament will be held every four years thereafter, with plans in place to expand the participant field beginning in 2013.

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