Yomiuri Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto was among the 28 players named Tuesday to the Japan national team for the upcoming Premier12, an international baseball event that doubles as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Sakamoto and four Giants teammates headline the roster for the Nov. 2-17 competition to be held in Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and South Korea, while an additional five players, including pitcher Kodai Senga, were selected from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Hawks infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda, 36, is the oldest player named to Atsunori Inaba’s team. The team has three catchers — Takuya Kai (SoftBank), Tsubasa Aizawa (Hiroshima Carp) and Seiji Kobayashi (Yomiuri Giants).
Japan will play warmup games against Canada, another competing nation, in Okinawa on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 to prepare for the 32-game tournament in which two of six spots in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be up for grabs. It closes with the final at Tokyo Dome.
Other Premier12 participants include the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, Cuba, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Premier12 is a tournament organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation. The top 12 teams in the world men’s baseball rankings secured their places in the second edition of the Premier12, first held in 2015. South Korea won the inaugural tournament.
Two quota spots will be allocated, with the top nation from the Americas territory earning a spot at the 2020 Games and the highest finisher from the Asia/Oceania region earning the other. This will not include Japan, which already qualified as the host nation.
Baseball will return to the Summer Games next year but will not be on the program for the 2024 Paris Games.
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