Johnny Damon is going to bat for Donald Trump ... saying toward the end of his baseball career -- he and his teammates were straight-up scared to go out on the town in Baltimore.
Of course, Trump has found himself in hot water this week for comments he made about the Maryland city -- ones in which he called Baltimore a "rodent-infested mess."
....As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place
Damon says he thinks Trump's choices of words were a little harsh ... but he tells TMZ Sports he agrees with 45 -- saying back when he played in the MLB, he didn't love hitting the road there.
"He's not wrong," Damon says ... "Baltimore was one of the best places to visit when I broke into the league in '95. And, at the end, we didn't really, like, enjoy going back."
Damon -- who's been an outspoken Trump supporter for years -- added, "Towards the end, it started getting a little scarier."
Johnny says Trump's comments will actually HELP the city .. telling us he thinks the criticism should lead to a change in the area.
"I think Baltimore is a great town, and this is raising awareness and hopefully they can go in and spend the hard tax-paying dollars to actually make a difference."
For his part, Trump had a similar sentiment on the situation, saying at the White House earlier this week, "Those people are living in hell in Baltimore. They're largely African-American -- you have a large African-American population -- and they really appreciate what I'm doing and they've let me know it."
Several politicians have lashed out at Trump for the comments -- with Baltimore mayor Bernard Young saying, "It’s completely unacceptable for the political leader of our country to denigrate a vibrant American City like Baltimore."