Seven former Trash Pandas to play in World Baseball Classic
Worldwide tournament begins on March 7
MADISON – Seven former Rocket City Trash Pandas take part in baseball’s premier global tournament when the World Baseball Classic begins in a few short weeks.
The seven former Trash Pandas will each represent six different counties in their pursuit of the title.
- Right-handed pitcher Glenn Albanese Jr., Italy
- Left-handed pitcher Adrian Almeida, Colombia
- Catcher Gustavo Campero, Colombia
- Left-handed pitcher Jhonathan Díaz, Venezuela
- Infielder Ray-Patrick Didder, Netherlands
- Right-handed pitcher Kyle Molnar, Israel
- Outfielder Aaron Whitefield, Australia
An Italian-American, Albanese Jr. pitched in five games for the Trash Pandas in 2022, posting a 4.66 ERA while striking out nine over 9.2 innings. He was originally selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 15th round of the 2021 draft out of Louisville. His Italian squad will begin their World Baseball Classic journey on March 9, taking on Cuba in Pool A play at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Chinese Taipei.
Originally born in Venezuela with Colombian heritage, Almeida went 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 30.2 innings for the inaugural Trash Pandas squad in 2021. The southpaw spent the 2022 season between the York Revolution of the Atlantic League and two teams in the Mexican League. Born in Lorica, Colombia, Campero appeared in six games for the 2022 Trash Pandas, going 3-for-12 at the plate with one run scored and one stolen base in his Double-A debut. Almeida, Campero, and their Colombian teammates begin Pool C play on March 11 against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Díaz starred on the inaugural Trash Pandas squad in 2021. The Valencia, Venezuela native went 5-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 13 games (nine starts) while striking out 78 in 61.0 innings, including the first nine-inning complete game in Toyota Field history on July 29, 2021. He has since made seven Major League appearances for the Angels over the past two seasons, going 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA. Venezuela begins their World Baseball Classic against the Dominican Republic on March 11 at LoanDepot Park in Miami.
Didder also was a member of the first Trash Pandas team in 2021 and spent that entire season in Rocket City, batting .240 with five home runs, 39 RBI, and 16 stolen bases in 96 games. He spent the 2022 season between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Jacksonville in the Miami Marlins’ system. Born in Aruba, Didder previously represented the Netherlands in the 2021 European Baseball Championship, helping the Dutch squad win the tournament. The Dutch squad will play in the tournament’s first game on March 7, taking on Cuba.
Molnar made his Double-A debut for Rocket City in 2021, going 0-2 with one save over 11 relief appearances. In his first appearance for the Trash Pandas, Molnar threw a four-inning save, striking out six to finish a 7-1 victory over Tennessee at Toyota Field. He spent the 2022 season between Low-A Inland Empire and High-A Tri-City in the Angels’ organization. Israel begins the tournament in Pool D, taking on Nicaragua on March 12 in Miami in their opening game.
Born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, Whitefield became a fan favorite for Rocket City last season, hitting .262 with nine home runs, 38 RBI, and 29 stolen bases over 79 games for the Trash Pandas. He became the first former Rocket City position player to reach the Angels with his Major League call up last May. Whitefield currently holds the record for longest hitting streak in Trash Pandas history with a 22-game streak from April 27 through May 18. Australia begins Pool B play at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on March 9.
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 7 and will be televised on the FOX family of networks.