Team Japan, dubbed Samurai Japan, beat Team Korea (South Korea) 5-3 in the final game Monday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to win its second consecutive title in the triennial World Baseball Classic.

It was a tie-breaking two-run single up the middle in the 10th inning by Mr. Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners that won the game for the Japanese team, which was led by manager Mr. Tatsunori Hara. The WBC title should help lift the spirits of the Japanese people now languishing in a severe economic downturn due to the global recession.

There is the view that the WBC is not a real world championship, since not all teams field their countries’ best players. It has special rules, including a limit to the number of pitches by one pitcher. A team defeated in the first or second round gets a second chance. Still, competition was keen. Although Team Japan could not boast fastballs and strong hitting, remarkably it beat powerful teams like the United States and Cuba, with its solid defense and bold base running.

In the first WBC championship held three years ago, Team Japan led by manager Mr. Sadaharu Oh grabbed the title by virtue of strong teamwork. But in the Beijing Olympic Games last August, the Japanese team came fourth even though it was strongly favored to win a gold medal. The Japanese team in the Beijing games may have been overconfident.

After the disappointment in Beijing, a sinuous process led to the selection of Mr. Hara, manager of the Yomiuri Giants, as manager of Team Japan for this year’s WBC championship. He deserves credit for respecting players’ characteristics, motivating them, and unifying them as a team in a short time.

In the WBC games, Team Korea became something of a rival to Japan. The two teams met five times and Team Japan won three games. Both teams deserve praise for their fighting spirit.

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