While Japan's successful run through the World Baseball Classic dominated the headlines, Japanese's baseball's 12 pro teams were quietly hard at work. When they weren't sneaking peeks at the screen to keep track of their teammates and friends on the Samurai Japan roster, the players were preparing for a 2023 season that rides in on a wave of WBC-inspired momentum.

The Pacific League will be the first of NPB's two circuits to play ball this year, as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles open the year at the Fighters' new ballpark on Thursday, before the rest of NPB begins play on Friday.

The following is the first of a two-part NPB preview beginning with the 2023 Pacific League.