MIYAZAKI – Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo and all of his players, except Houston Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki, opened training camp in Miyazaki on Thursday in preparation for next month’s World Baseball Classic.
Aoki, the only major leaguer on the Japan roster for the March 6-22 tournament, will join his 27 Samurai Japan teammates after he is released by his club.
Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki paid a visit to the training site and encouraged the team as it gears up to try and win its third WBC title.
“Let’s fight off the pressure and face (our opponents) with our hearts as one,” Kumazaki said.
Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006 and won again in 2009. The Japanese were eliminated by Puerto Rico in the semifinals in 2013.
The national squad wraps up training in Miyazaki on Sunday, a day after playing a practice game against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
The WBC begins with South Korea facing Israel in Seoul on March 6. Japan’s first game is against Cuba at Tokyo Dome on March 7.