(Tokyo) Japanese television maintained its live coverage of Miami for nearly two hours following Japan’s 3-2 victory over the United States in the World Baseball Classic Grand Final.
It was a show to watch over and over again.
The shot near the outside corner of home plate that allowed Shohei Ohtani to eliminate Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout and end the game was featured as a replay replayed between player interviews, footage from the beer-washed locker room and the ceremony. traditional where members of the winning team throw their manager and teammates into the air.
Yomiuri, the country’s main newspaper, ran a special edition on Wednesday afternoon for passengers, usually reserved for serious state affairs, breaking news about elections or, as last year, the assassination of the former prime minister. Shinzo Abe.
“Japan, number 1 in the world”, could be read in the main title, in Japanese, while users of Shibuya station crowded to seize this collector’s item.
Ohtani’s victory and focus over the past two weeks has served to divert attention from economic malaise, North Korea’s missile threats, China’s rise in Asia and its implications for Japan.
It also gave a boost to baseball in Japan, which is now rivaled by soccer as the country’s favorite sport. Japan is unlikely to win the soccer World Cup in the short term, but the level of its baseball is world-class. The country has won three of the five Clássico titles since the first edition, in 2006.
Japan joined the Dominican Republic in 2013 as the only undefeated champion of baseball’s major national tournament.
“I was comfortable losing or winning,” said Hiroya Kuroda, 44, in a crowd of about 400 watching the match at a Tokyo Tower studio. “But I was very moved by the fact that we were shown a dramatic departure on this US stage. »
Toshiya Ishii, a 29-year-old fan, burst into tears after the win.
“Thank you Ohtani,” he said. “Congratulations to Samurai Japan. THANKS. »
Japan beat the Americans at their own game, and it wasn’t the first time.
American teachers and missionaries popularized the game in Japan in the 1870s and 1880s, but it was an 1896 game in Yokohama between the Americans and Japanese, won 29-4 by Japan, that allowed baseball to take root in the country.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Lars Nootbaar, the St. Louis outfielder. Louis Cardinals who were the first to play for Japan because of their heritage.
He spoke in a TV interview after the match and hugged his mother, Kumiko, who was by his side.
“Nippon daisuki,” said Nootbaar in Japanese. “Arigato”.
(I love Japan. Thank you.)
Nootbaar, Ohtani, pitcher Yu Darvish and coach Hideki Kuriyama were among those thrown into the air by the fans.
“It’s the first time I’ve been lifted like this,” Nootbaar said. “I hope to take a picture of this because it’s something I want to remember forever. »