Shuhei Ohtani grounded out Mike Trout in the ninth inning to rescue Japan’s 3-2 win in the finals of the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday, earning his country its third world championship. The first since 2009.
Miami’s Park Depot stood by almost the entire time, waiting to duel the Los Angeles Angels’ dreams as Ohtani wrestled Trout to the rescue.
A dream come true for baseball star Ohtani
“My dream has come true,” Otani said of the Japanese samurai’s victory. “It was a great relief for me to be able to finish the match. But it is sad that this tournament has come to an end.”
When asked about his duel with Trout, Otani said, “I knew if I could hit the first two, he’d be the last batter in the game. I could hold him (Mookie Betts) to double play and face Trout in the best possible position.”
A three-time American League MVP, Trout said, “As a baseball fan, that’s what everyone wanted to see.” Referring to the implied second leg, Trott jokingly added, “He won the first round.”
“He has bad stuff on him. He threw 101, 102 (mph). He ended up throwing a good step, sliding.”
After an all-around performance that no other player could do, Ohtani was also named the 2023 World Cup Player of the Year.
He won both starts on the mound, finishing in the ninth inning of the Finals and batting . 435 (10-for-23) with a home run and eight RBIs.
Fans from all over Japan cheer for their team
Fans all over Japan gathered to cheer on the team. About 100 people gathered in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture—home of Hanamaki Higashi High School, which favorite Oteani once attended—to watch the match. Norikatsu Kaneko, 37, said he was “happy” with Ohtani’s match.
In Higashimatsuyama in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo, Tatsuji Inokida, 84, and his wife Kazuko, 81, grandparents of midfielder Lars Neutebar, who scored in the second half, were among the residents cheering the team. “I feel proud and happy for my grandson,” Tatsuji said, crying as Japan won the title.
On Thursday, about 1,200 fans enthusiastically welcomed “Samurai Japan” at Narita Airport near Tokyo.
Players from Nippon Professional Baseball Clubs arrived on a chartered flight, while four MLB players — tournament MVP Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masataka Yoshida and Lars Nutbar — returned to their American clubs.
“We played tough international matches that could have gone either way but every player did their bit to win,” captain Hideki Kuriyama, who is stepping down, told a news conference.
The team later meets Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in his office, where Kuriyama thanks the nation for their support.
Kishida told Kuriyama and the players that their performance gave “courage and energy” to people across the country.
MVP Shohei Ohtani and other Samurai Japan players successfully reached their respective Spring Centers in Arizona and Florida a week before the start of the season.
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