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Ex-Expos outfielder Cromartie will step into the ring

TOKYO -- Always flamboyant on the ballfield, Warren
Cromartie is set to trade his bat for the mat.

The former Montreal Expos outfielder who became a fan favorite
in Japan will step into the ring Sunday in a pro wrestling event
called Hustle Aid.

As part of a tag-team match, he'll face an opponent who walks
around with a sword in his mouth -- and says he wants to hurt
Cromartie.

"I have to represent all baseball players," the 53-year-old
Cromartie said Tuesday. "I've got a reputation here, I've got my
fans in Japan so I'm taking this seriously and have been training
real hard."

Told that longtime wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh hopes to injure
him, Cromartie hardly flinched.

"I'm going to take him out just like on a double play,"
Cromartie said. "I'm going to go from first to third and take him
out with a home run chop."

When he played in Japan, Cromartie was involved in a brawl or
two. He said that should prepare him for the weekend.

"I've thrown a punch and I've taken a punch," he said. "I'm
not scared. I've seen guys bleed before. He is a little crazy
walking around with a sword in his mouth but I'm not afraid of
him."

Cromartie will team with Japan's Ryoji Sai to take on Singh and
An Joenosuke. The 63-year-old Singh was not amused by Cromartie's
foray into another sport.

"Pro wrestling is a vicious game, a dangerous game," Singh
said. "He should stick to baseball. I'll teach him a lesson once
and for all."

Pro wrestling has a huge following in Japan. Many wrestlers such
as Singh and Abdullah the Butcher have been able to prolong their
careers by fighting here.

It's quite a change for Cromartie, who played for the Yomiuri
Giants from 1984-1990. He led the Central League in batting in 1989
with a .378 average and won the MVP.

He was quite a showman in Japan and often led the Yomiuri
faithful with cheers of "Banzai!" from the outfield.

Cromartie played in the big leagues for 10 seasons, nine with
the Montreal Expos before going to Japan. He returned in 1991 and
hit .313 in 69 games for Kansas City.

Cromartie wouldn't say how much he is being paid for his
wrestling debut but did say the organizers "made it worth my
while." He also pointed out that some of the proceeds from the
event will go to fighting leukemia.

In 2005, Cromartie managed the Japan Samurai Bears, a team of
Japanese players that played in the Golden Baseball League, an
independent minor league in the western United States.

While he's not sure about his future in wrestling, Cromartie
said he would like to get back into managing a ballclub.

"I'm not sure where this will take me," Cromartie said. "But
I still love managing and teaching and hopefully I will get back
into that at some point."