The World Baseball Classic, which was very successfully hosted in Florida in March, is still fresh in our minds. At today’s game, I will be grateful to celebrate Japan’s victory at the WBC with a public salutation at Tropicana Field.
The commemoration message will appear while MVP of the 2023 WBC Shohei Ohtani’s team, the Los Angeles Angels, are present for a game with the Tampa Bay Rays. In the WBC final match between Japan and the United States, baseball enthusiasts worldwide were all thrilled to see Ohtani striking out his teammate and three-time MVP Mike Trout to finish its final inning. I was very happy to witness that moment of victory in person, alongside my friend Orestes Destrade, also known as “Big O.” Destrade-san, a longtime sportscaster for the Tampa Bay Rays and a most successful and popular U.S. baseball player in Japan’s league, has long fostered closer ties between Japan and the U.S. through the sport.
Featuring such excellent players and thrilling moments as well as high morale from the fans, this year’s WBC contributed greatly to furthering grassroots exchange between Japan and the United States.
Baseball is an elegant sport that requires every player to believe in values such as playing by the rules, honesty and mutual respect. I was very pleased that Japan and the United States faced each other in the final game, since both love baseball and uphold specific values that are rooted in the sport. Those values of baseball help to undergird the U.S.-Japan commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights, which strongly bind us together as the most important allies for the free world.
Throughout the world, however, those values are being challenged by some who believe that might is right. Just look at what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine, and Xi Jinping is doing in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. Japan and the U.S., two nations deeply rooted in these values, are standing up to counter those who challenge them, and protect them. We are enhancing our alliance, building up our military capabilities and readiness and collaborating with friends and like-minded states to defeat Russia in Ukraine, discourage China’s aggression and promote our common values worldwide. The WBC was held at this juncture, and it was very symbolic that the USA and Japan met in the final WBC game.
You may recall that I threw an opening pitch at Tropicana Field last year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of baseball. It was 1872 when an American schoolteacher introduced the sport to his students in Tokyo. Since then, baseball has played an important role in deepening our friendship and is now helping to strengthen our alliance to uphold and promote our core common values. I believe the U.S. and Japan will surely continue to love baseball. Our love of this great game reminds us to stay committed to our core principles for a free world.
Kazuhiro Nakai is the consul general of the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami.