Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani has met up with the Japanese national baseball team ahead of the World Baseball Classic. The former Major League Baseball MVP will play for Japan at the Classic.
According to Japan Today, Ohtani arrived in Japan on Wednesday after starting spring training with the Angels and joined Samurai Japan’s World Baseball Classic team on Friday. Fans gathered to watch Ohtani practice with the team at Vantelin Dome Nagoya.
“First of all, I have to learn guys’ names and remember their faces,” Ohtani said, according to Kyodo News.
The team wore practice t-shirts that said “Ta-chan.” According to Kyodo News, the name was meant to welcome outfielder Lars Taylor-Tatsuji Nootbaar, an American player who is eligible to play for Japan because he is Japanese.
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international tournament created in 2007 in partnership with the MLB. The tournament does not allow MLB players to participate in games prior to official pre-tournament exhibitions, which meant that Ohtani sat out two warm-up games over the weekend.
The WBC will begin on March 7 and end on March 21. Teams will begin group play in the United States, Japan and Taiwan. The first round of knockout games will be held in Miami and Tokyo with Miami hosting the semi-finals and finals. Japan has its first game on March 9 against China.
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