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Samurai Japan added the first major league player to its roster for the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, when Houston Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki signed up for his third WBC.

The move was a boost for manager Hiroki Kokubo’s team and likely a welcome addition for Japanese fans, for whom winning the WBC is a much greater attraction than it is for many in the United States, something that can be said of most of the nations vying for the crown.

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