Alex Rodriguez at bat for WBC

ESPN embraces embattled infielder for ad campaign

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez is now not only the poster boy for steroids, he is also the poster boy for the World Baseball Classic -- literally.

The Yankees third baseman is one of four athletes that will be featured in a global campaign promoting the WBC on ESPN. As part of the effort, Rodriguez, New York teammate Derek Jeter, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Florida's Jorge Cantu will be featured in cable TV, print, outdoor and online ads as well as on posters distributed at sports bars.

Rodriguez has been the center of a media storm since it was leaked that he tested positive for a banned substance in 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers. The All-Star, in an exclusive interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, admitted to using steroids and apologized. On Thursday, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Rodriguez "shamed the game."

Beginning Feb. 23, A-Rod will not only be featured during ESPN's news segments but also in its commercial slots when the campaign hits the air. In the spot, Rodriguez, who is wearing the Dominican Republic uniform, says: "I'm playing for my country. I'm playing for Quisqueya la bella (the beautiful Quisqueya)."

ESPN issued a broad statement about the campaign: "The World Baseball Classic is a significant global event," said Seth Ader, ESPN senior director of marketing. "Baseball's biggest stars told us that despite incredible career journeys and accolades, the chance to represent their countries was simply too important to pass up; and the opportunity to deliver a WBC championship for their people was the greatest motivator of all."

For example, Jeter says, "There's one title we still haven't won. The one for our country." While Suzuki says, "Japan is the reigning world champion. My job is to defend that title."

Rodriguez also appears in ads for "Guitar Hero: World Tour" with, among other athletes, Michael Phelps.
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