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Japan celebrates thrilling baseball win over US

Time and date:2010-12-5 17:23:32  author:Press center2   source:Press center2  view:  comment:0
Content summary:Locals had woken up early to watch the final - which saw a dominant performance from Japan's Ohtani. job

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) final between Japan and the US delivered on many fronts: sporting prowess, drama and for Japan's fans, a long-awaited victory.

Around noon on Wednesday morning Japan time, the Samurai Japan team beat the US defending champions in a thrilling 3-2 win in Miami.

It is the third WBC championship for the baseball-crazed nation- but just its first since 2009.

In the end, it came down to a nail-biter between the team captains.

It was the match-up baseball fans had been salivating over for months: Japanese power player Shohei Ohtani up against US All-Star Mike Trout.

The two are among the best players in the US Major League Baseball competition - and normally don't clash because they both play for the Los Angeles Angels.

So the last-innings showdown was the stuff of fantasies.

"It would have been be cheesy if it were movie, but it was amazing because it was real life," said CBS sports commentator Mike Axisa.

And in real life, Ohtani won out. Pitching to Trout at the batter's box, he pelted 100-miles deliveries, striking the US hitter out on the sixth ball.

Japanese fans watching at home erupted in celebration.

In Ohtani's home city of Oshu, footage showed young children jumping to their feet after his winning pitch.

People watching in sports bars, in parks, or on their phones celebrated.

I felt the mood lift around me in Tokyo. It was the only thing anyone was talking about in the hours that followed the game.

Japan, a baseball powerhouse, had waited more than a decade for this moment.

"I'm going to work extra early to watch the game," one colleague had told me before the game.

The country had finally clinched victory after 14 years. Having won the first two editions of the tournament in 2006 and 2009, the 2023 victory now marks their third.

And it was all the more sweeter for being a victory over the US - the country which introduced baseball to Japan - and a country whose team was stacked with All-Star players.

Japan media reported that in the pre-game pep talk, Ohtani told teammates to not be intimidated by the star power.

"Looking at the great line-up of players ... obviously, we have respect," he told them.

"[But] forget about admiration for the stars today. We came here to do one thing: win."

Many have commented about the team spirit of Samurai Japan; and how the players - each stars in their own right in Japan's top league- came together in the two week tournament for an unbeaten 7-0 match run.

And yet Ohtani was the stand-out. He is a two-way baseball sensation, both a gifted hitter and pitcher. His rare talents have gained him nick names like 'Shotime' and "Baseball's unicorn".

He was already a national hero in Japan - celebrated as the designated hitter and pitcher throughout the tournament.

But now he has cemented his status as arguably the greatest baseball player in the world right now.

"[Ohtani] was better than any animation or manga. He was astonishingly cool," said one exuberant fan on Twitter.

He was awarded the tournament's most valuable player award and in Japan his name rivalled #JapanBaseball and #SamuraiJapan in the rush of celebratory online commentary.

"My dream has come true," Ohtani he said after the match.

"It was such a relief I was able to close out the game. But it's sad this tournament is over," he told reporters.

One fan in a rowdy sports bar told a local TV station: "I will never forget the moment Ohtani struck out. I was so excited - I celebrated with the strangers around me."

Japan's victory led all domestic news bulletins on Wednesday, relegating Prime Minister Kishida's visit to Ukraine to second tier.

It also dominated Thursday's front pages - with three different newspapers - the Mainichi , Yomiuri and Asahi - printing the headline: "Samurai takes back World No. 1".

The US may have brought baseball to Japan more than 150 years ago - but this victory is a reminder of how baseball has become Japan's national sport, pipping even football.

It will go down as one of the most memorable days in Japan's sporting history. And crucially, it's brought the country together for a much-needed moment of national pride and cheer.

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