Former big league player becomes a US ambassador
A former outfielder for the Chicago White Sox is all lined up for the diplomatic field.
Mark Gilbert, who played seven games in July 1985, has become the first major leaguer to be confirmed as a U.S. ambassador. The Senate approved his nomination to New Zealand and Samoa by voice vote on Friday.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agency could not find any other record of a former major league player having served as an ambassador.
Gilbert hit .273, scored three runs and drove in three, and started alongside future Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Carlton Fisk with the White Sox.
His manager in the majors was Tony La Russa, also a Hall of Fame member.
The 58-year-old Gilbert was nominated by President Barack Obama in October 2013. At the time, La Russa was told that ambassadors are mostly addressed as ''His Excellency'' or ''Your Excellency.''
''I think if Mark walks into a clubhouse with his old teammates, I don't think they're going to call him `Your Excellency,''' La Russa said then, laughing.
Cal Ripken Jr. and Barry Larkin are some of the ex-big league players who have served the U.S. State Department in various capacities, including goodwill ambassadors and sports envoys.
Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was the U.S. ambassador to Japan and Australia.
Gilbert has worked as a banking executive and was on the Obama for America national finance team.
Rugby, cricket and America's Cup sailing are prominent sports in New Zealand. The Kiwis have played in the qualifying tournament at the World Baseball Classic.