Ohtani says he wants to participate in World Baseball Classic

Angels’ GM on two-way star’s decision: ‘Shohei has earned the right’

November 17th, 2022

Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani said in an Instagram post that he wishes to play for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic in 2023.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said at the end of the season that Ohtani was cleared to play in the Classic and that the decision was up to Ohtani. Ohtani made that decision official early Thursday, announcing his intentions to play in the Classic for the first time in his career.

“I have officially informed Team Japan Manager Mr. Kuriyama that I would like to participate in next year’s WBC,” Ohtani said on Instagram. “Looking forward for the opportunity to face the best players around the world and to be able to play in front of the Japanese fans for the first time in over 5 years!!”

Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP and a finalist for the award again in ‘22, will return to Japan during Spring Training. Team Japan is in Pool B, which plays its opening round and quarterfinals in Tokyo.

Minasian said he’s confident that Ohtani will find a routine that will allow him to participate in the event without jeopardizing his readiness for the start of the regular season.

“I’m not standing in anybody’s way, and Shohei has earned the right if he wants to play,” Minasian said on Oct. 7. “It’s great for the game. There’s a responsibility when you have these jobs to promote the game. It’s a game I’ve loved my entire life. And so for him to be on that stage and for me to say no, I’m not doing that.”

Ohtani has experience playing for Samurai Japan skipper Hideki Kuriyama, who managed him on the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, before Ohtani crossed over to MLB. Kuriyama visited Angel Stadium on Aug. 13 and met with Ohtani, but he hadn’t made a decision yet.

Ohtani to play in The Classic
If Ohtani plays in the Classic, it would be his first action in the tournament; he was poised to play for Japan in the 2017 event, but an ankle injury kept him on the sidelines. Ohtani had previously discussed the possibility of serving in a relief role, even as a closer, for Japan.

Ohtani might not be stretched out enough to start in the Classic, so he could pitch in relief to build up his innings to be ready for the regular season. It’s still being determined how Team Japan will utilize Ohtani, but Minasian said he’s fine with any role.

“I’m comfortable with him doing whatever he wants to do,” Minasian said. “So if that means two-way, if that means play right, play center, if that means close, if that means start, if that means start and close, whatever he wants to do. I’m comfortable with it. He has earned that right. There’s nobody who is going to work harder. He’s all about preparation. I think him on that stage will be fun to watch. I might have to skip a couple days in spring and go watch.”