In December 2021, the retirement ceremony of Daisuke Matsuzaka (43) was held at Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Seibu Lions’ ‘legend’ Matsuzaka bid farewell to fans as a player. Senior Ichiro Suzuki (50), who appeared on the screen, conveyed a message of consolation, saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t attend.” But after a while, a man in a suit appeared from behind Matsuzaka holding a bouquet of flowers. Cheers erupted from the audience. Matsuzaka looked at him with a surprised face and bowed deeply. Ichiro from the billboard appeared in front of Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka couldn’t hold back his tears when he heard the words of encouragement, “You worked really hard for a long time and worked hard.”
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) was launched with the goal of globalizing baseball. Japan is the 2006 and 2009 champions. It beat baseball powerhouses such as the ‘baseball nation’ the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and lifted the championship trophy in the first or second tournament in a row. In the national competition in which major league players participate, it showed the potential of Japanese baseball.
In the first tournament, Sadaharu Oh 메이저놀이터 (Wang Jeong-chi), Softbank Hawks coach (83), led the team, and in the second tournament, Tatsunori Hara, Yomiuri Giants coach (65) took the helm. In the second tournament, Korea and Japan faced each other in the final, raising the status of Asian baseball.
After that, the atmosphere changed a bit. In 2013 and 2017, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico stepped up. Although they failed to advance to the final, Japan advanced to the semifinals in two consecutive tournaments. In 2013, he participated in the national team with only domestic league players without major league players.
Matsuzaka and Ichiro, who won the 1st and 2nd tournaments. The two were selected as one of the WBC’s all-time best nine. Matsuzaka as a starting pitcher and Ichiro as a right fielder were listed on the list of the best players by position by the official major league website.
Ace Matsuzaka started a total of 6 games, recorded 6 wins and an average ERA of 1.95. He put up a dominant game and won MVP for two consecutive tournaments. He was with the Seibu Lions in 2006 and the Boston Red Sox in 2009.
Leader Ichiro, who became the focal point of the team, played 17 games in two tournaments, recording a batting average of .301 and 2, one home run, 10 RBIs and 14 runs. In the final against Korea in the 2nd tournament, a dramatic scene was created. In the top of the 10th inning with a score of 3-3, he scored the final two runs. After leading 1-3, he showed terrifying concentration in a situation where he allowed a tie in the bottom of the 9th inning. It is considered one of the best WBC fights of all time.
There is a player who has a deep relationship with Japanese baseball. Alfred Despaine, who played for Softbank until last year, was selected as the left fielder. Despine will also participate as Cuba’s representative in the 5th tournament, which will start in March. This is his 4th WBC appearance.
Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) catcher, Mikel Cabrera (Venezuela) first base, Robinson Cano (Venezuela) second base, Jorge Canto (Mexico) third base, Jimmy Rollins (USA) shortstop, Despinewa Ichiro, Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico) was selected as an outfielder.