• Kyodo

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Omar Linares, the hero of two Olympic championships for Cuba, joined his new teammates of the Chunichi Dragons for his first practice session with the Central League club on Monday.

Linares, who will be spending time with the Chunichi farm team before his scheduled debut with the Dragons on July 21 or 23, took part in the workout which was limited by a steady rainfall to just batting practice.

He, nevertheless, displayed some power, spraying sharp liners to all fields.

“It wasn’t bad. I’m still a bit jet-lagged, but I’m sure my body will get used to it,” said the 34-year-old infielder a day before the second half of the season opens for both the Central and Pacific leagues.

Linares is set to make his first appearance in a Chunichi uniform when he plays with the farm team in games Friday and Saturday.

Linares is the first player allowed by Cuban baseball officials to join a professional league outside the Caribbean country, which has dominated amateur baseball for decades with a number of titles at major international tournaments.

Linares has won the admiration of Cubans as a national hero after helping Cuba claim the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, where baseball made its debut as an official medal event, and again four years later in Atlanta.

He was also a member of the Cuban team that took the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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