Matsuzaka, five others named to Olympic team

Seibu pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and Orix BlueWave outfielder So Taguchi were among six professionals formally announced by the Pacific League on Monday to take part in the baseball tournament of the Sydney Olympics.

Matsuzaka and Taguchi will be joined by pitcher Tomohiro Kuroki of the Lotte Marines, infielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka of the Daiei Hawks, Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger Norihiro Nakamura and infielder Yukio Tanaka of the Nippon Ham Fighters.

“This has been my desire and I’m very happy. Of course, our goal will be to get the best medal and I will do my best to achieve that,” said Matsuzaka.

“When I turned professional, I never dreamed of playing in the Olympics but it is an honor to be selected and I will do my best to bring home a medal,” Taguchi said.

Taguchi is the Orix replacement for star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who had declined to play at the Sydney Games in September despite an enthusiastic call from amateur baseball officials.

Matsuzaka, 19, was a member of the national squad in last September’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Seoul, where Japan finished second to secure a place in Sydney, while Matsunaka played for Japan’s silver medal-winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Meanwhile, Central League clubs, whose owners earlier agreed that each team would be free to reach its own decision about sending players to the Olympics, are expected to name their players in early July.

Professional baseball players are allowed to take part in the Olympics for the first time in Sydney.