Five years ago, Bobby Valentine was just about a week into his career as Red Sox manager. Now he may be on the verge of becoming a United States ambassador.
According to multiple sources, Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan. The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.
When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.
Such a move would be viewed as another unorthodox appointment by Trump, who named former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration Wednesday.
Yet Valentine’s history, and connections to Trump and Japan, make the possibility of such a decision very real.
The former Red Sox manager has known both Trump and his brother, Bob, since the early 1980’s. He is also very close to Anthony Scaramucci, who is part of the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee. And it was New Jersey governor Chris Christie who, according to a source, first surfaced Valentine’s name for the position.
The connections don’t stop there.
Valentine is still very popular in Japan, having managed the Chiba Lotte Marines for seven seasons, becoming the first U.S. born manager to win the Japan Series with a championship in 2005.
During the former big leaguer’s time in Japan, the Ambassador to Japan was Tom Schieffer, who also was president of the Texas Rangers during Valentine’s tenure as manager with the team. (Caroline Kennedy is the current ambassador, having been appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.)
Valentine is friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like the former All-American, attended the University of Southern California.
A few other elements that may help Valentine’s case include Japan prioritizing bringing baseball back for the 2020 Summer Olympics, along with the athletic director’s familiarity with SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son. Son recently announced after a meeting with Trump that SoftBank would be investing $50 billion in America’s technology sector.
Valentine is also close with McMahon, who serves on the board of trustees at Sacred Heart (where a new student commons building is named after the former WWE executive).
Another recognizable name who served as Ambassador to Japan is former Vice-President Walter Mondale, who manned the post during President Bill Clinton’s administration, from 1993-96.
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