Reds Director of Media Relations Rob Butcher is currently in Taiwan working the World Baseball Classic qualifiers on behalf of Major League Baseball. He’s been kind enough to document his experience for Better Off Red with posts and pictures. Enjoy!

It was a beautiful Friday in New Taipei City, as I hope the photos show. We enjoyed it as much as we could in anticipation of poor weather on Saturday. I also snuck in this gallery a photo of Reds All-Star Joey Votto featured on a poster outside a sports shop right across the street from Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium.

New Zealand eliminated Thailand in Friday morning’s opener, 12-2 in 8 innings, while host Chinese Taipei remains the bracket’s only undefeated team with a 7-inning, 16-0 victory over Philippines in the nightcap. New Zealand and Philippines meet Saturday afternoon for a spot in Sunday’s final against Chinese Taipei, and the winner of Sunday’s matchup advances to March’s third World Baseball Classic. Three of the 4 games so far were shortened because of the run differential rule, including both of Chinese Taipei’s contests.

On Friday the local media lost its star, veteran Major Leaguer Johnny Damon, when Thailand was eliminated. He was the focus of their attention every day and, as always, he handled himself with extreme grace and professionalism. He finished the tournament 3-for-7 with a walk and a run scored. His team did its best but couldn’t overcome the 11 errors it committed over the 2 games. Johnny said he enjoyed his visit to Taiwan and is looking forward to helping promote baseball in Thailand, where his mother was born.

I encourage fans to follow the rest of the qualifying tournament games at www.worldbaseballclassic.com, using MLB.tv or the gameday feature. Our Taiwan final can be seen live on MLB Network at 1:00 a.m. ET Sunday. The Panama City final is Monday at 8:00 p.m. ET, also on MLBN. Of interest to Reds fans in Panama City, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin is managing Brazil and Eduardo Perez is managing Colombia. Larkin’s club already pulled off a huge, huge upset by beating host Panama, 3-2, Thursday night.

I must send my best wishes to Jamie Ramsey, author of this blog, and Melissa Roach. Those crazy kids are getting married this weekend. We’re all very happy for them, and I am disappointed I will miss the ceremonies and associated festivities. I promise to raise a Taiwan Gold Label toast in their honor.

And, before I sign off, another reminder. No cheering in the press box….

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