Although it is not yet official, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbar is poised to play for Japan in March’s World Baseball Classic, with manager Hideki Kuriyama saying Wednesday he is thrilled at what his inclusion will mean.
Nootbar, 25, whose mother is Japanese, has played 166 MLB games with a .231 career batting average, 19 home runs and 55 RBIs for St. Louis. He would be the first Japan player in the WBC who qualifies for selection based solely on ancestry. 카지노사이트
“Even those nurtured in different countries’ baseball can connect on a person-to-person level,” said Kuriyama in an online media availability. “They can be companions.”
“I think that is one of the strengths of sports, the ability to go beyond nationality. I told him this is a big first step for Japanese baseball.”
WBC rules allow players to represent any country whose laws enable them to become naturalized citizens, but this is a departure from Japanese baseball’s typically insular world
“If one thinks about what is needed to win, of course, he’s going to be a candidate,” said Kuriyama, who has had his eye on overseas players of Japanese ancestry from the start.
“He’s a well-balanced player whose career in MLB is going take off from here,” Kuriyama said. “I believe he can give us momentum.”
Although Nootbar does not speak Japanese, Kuriyama, who talked with him online, is confident he will be a hit with his Samurai Japan teammates.
“Everyone is going to like him,” the skipper said. “He’s a lovable guy and has a lot of heart.”
In addition to Nootbar, Kuriyama said he also expects to have Yakult Swallows’ star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada on the team.
Yamada, a speedy slugger, has had three seasons with a .300-plus average, along with 30 or more home runs and steals.
The 30-year-old played for Japan in the last WBC in 2017 and will likely compete for playing time with DeNA BayStars second baseman Shugo Maki, who was among the first 12 officially named to the Samurai Japan squad.