CAP CANA, Dominican Republic - Johnny Damon was hardly the best golfer on the course for the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic yesterday, but he was clearly the best dressed.
The free agent outfielder had on electric blue pants held up by a skull-and-bones belt buckle. A Puma golf shirt, wraparound mirrored sunglasses, and custom-made spikes completed his look.
Damon’s group was primed for a good time on the course, a cooler of El Presidente beer strapped securely to a cart.
As he prepared for his round, Damon shook hands with new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. He believes Valentine was a good choice, but was sorry to see how it ended for Terry Francona.
“Terry Francona is a Hall of Fame manager,’’ said Damon. “I loved playing for him. I wish I could have played for him more years. I’m glad he’s taking this year off because I know how tough playing in Boston and managing in Boston is. He deserves to take a break.’’
Damon also had some advice for Ortiz: Sign with the Yankees and take advantage of that right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.
“Shoot, I was trying to tell him if he went to New York his 30 home runs turns into 40,’’ Damon said. “He still has a great chance to win. I’m happy I got to experience both sides [of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry]. Both sides were very incredible for me.
“What people don’t understand is that there’s a business part of it. As a player, I wish I could have been in Kansas City my entire career. But once you get traded, you get to thinking and you accept whatever comes your way and you try and make whatever team you’re on better. David can do that.
“As a baseball fan, I would love to see him stay in Boston. But being a part of it, I know there may be some opportunities and less drama elsewhere.’’
Damon, 38, hit .261 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs for the Rays last season. He was the primary DH, starting only 11 games in left field. Because he resides in Orlando, Damon hopes to return to the Rays. But he’s open to anything.
“I haven’t even talked to them just because our GM [Andrew Friedman] is a free agent,’’ Damon said. “He’s not going to sign me and then leave. If he goes to Houston, his hometown, he’s going to try and bring me along with him. That’s where my waiting game is.
“My phone is off here, I have no idea what is going on. Tampa was perfect for me. Being around those coaches - George Hendrick, Dave Martinez and [manager] Joe Maddon - it’s amazing. They loved the fact that I was there. They said they never had a veteran guy like me around and hopefully I’m around for a few more years.’’
Valentine spent about 15 minutes with Ortiz Friday night and spoke with him briefly yesterday before returning to the United States. “I have to go home and get some clean clothes,’’ said Valentine, who will join the Red Sox party at the winter meetings in Dallas tomorrow. Valentine was here to demonstrate to Ortiz that the Red Sox want him back, and also to support his charitable foundation. “I wasn’t here for a message, I was here for a check,’’ he said.
Righthander Michael Bowden, who appeared in 14 games for the Red Sox last season, met Valentine for the first time Friday night. “He has a lot of energy and he wants to help,’’ Bowden said. “It’s pretty exciting.’’ . . . Ortiz did not golf in his own event but toured the course in a cart, posing for photos with the participants . . . Celtics legend Bill Russell, who held an hourlong conversation with Valentine Friday, was on the driving range early.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.