Shohei Ohtani Is Japan’s Biggest Star at 2023 World Baseball Classic

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

When Japan takes the field at the Tokyo Dome for their first game of the World Baseball Classic on March 8 against China, they’ll have a star-studded team.

They’ll have a team loaded with stars from NPB. And they’ll have a team with numerous MLB players, ranging from utility man Lars Nootbar, the first player born outside of Japan to play for the nation in the World Baseball Classic, to Shohei Ohtani, the unquestioned Sirius in Japan’s stable of stars and baseball’s most intriguing player.

Ohtani, who is a spectacular pitcher and an effective designated hitter, made the announcement that would play for Japan on Instagram late last year.

“I have officially informed Team Japan Manager Mr. Kuriyama that I would like to participate in next year’s WBC,” Ohtani said in a statement posted on Instagram Nov. 22, 2022. “Looking forward [to]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!”

A native of Ohsu, Japan, Ohtani has played four seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, winning the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year award and finishing second in the A.L. MVP and fourth in the A.L. Cy Young award voting in 2022. In 581 career Major League games, Ohtani has slashed .267/.354/.532 with 127 home runs and 342 RBI. 

As a pitcher, Ohtani has made 63 career starts for the Angels, throwing 349.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.090, averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings and a strikeouts-to-walks ration of 3.74.

Ohtani played five seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball before coming to the Angels via the posting system.

Japan will play in Pool B, along with China, Australia, South Korea, and the Czech Republic, at the Tokyo Dome to start the 2023 World Baseball Classic. They’ll face China in their first game on March 9 at 5 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. 

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