Japanese baseball circles rejoice at WBC triumph

Japanese baseball circles on Tuesday celebrated the county’s triumph at the World Baseball Classic with a victory over Cuba in the championship final.

Former Yomiuri Giants manager Shigeo Nagashima congratulated his old teammate and friend Sadaharu Oh as well as his players for winning the title of the inaugural tournament, which fielded major league players representing their countries for the first time.

“I feel happy and thrilled and I believe people across Japan feel the same way too,” Nagashima said in a comment issued through a Yomiuri spokesman after Japan’s 10-6 victory in San Diego.

“The victory is valuable in the sense that Japanese baseball led by manager Oh has turned into world-class baseball,” he said.

Oh inherited Nagashima’s aspiration to steer the national team to a major international title. Nagashima led Japan past the Asian qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics but was unable to go to Athens after suffering a stroke in March that year.

Japan took a bronze medal but failed to advance to the final in the Olympic tournament in the absence of Nagashima, who has undergone lengthy rehabilitation. Cuba won the gold medal in Athens.

Hideki Matsui, who declined to play for Japan in order to attend spring training with his New York Yankees teammates, said he is glad that the results showed the qualify of Japanese baseball.

“I watched Japan’s games as much as possible. The team not only produced the best result but showed fans that the quality of Japanese baseball is high,” Matsui said.

Nippon Professional Baseball Commissioner Yasuchika Negoro and Japan national soccer coach Zico also sent enthusiastic, congratulatory messages to the winning team.

“I’m thankful and excited. The victory gave baseball fans in Japan a dream about the future of the sport. I expect many excellent players to take part in the Classic next time,” Negoro said.

“Congratulations! It’s a wonderful achievement for Japan. I’ll try to help Japanese soccer follow in the footsteps of the baseball team,” Zico said, looking ahead to his side’s participation in this summer’s World Cup finals in Germany.

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