Lars Nootbaar, Masataka Yoshida join Japan’s WBC roster
TOKYO — Japan completed naming its 30-man roster on Thursday for the World Baseball Classic, which includes outfielders Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals and Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox.
Nootbaar has a Japanese mother but grew up in California and does not speak Japanese. He is the first to play for Japan in the WBC who qualifies because of his ancestry.
Japan announced its first 12 members earlier this month, including the Los Angeles Angels‘ Shohei Ohtani, San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish and Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
Nootbaar said a few weeks ago at a Cardinals event in St. Louis that he does not speak Japanese but is working on it with his mother, Kumi Enokida.
“I am going to try [to speak] a little bit,” he said. “Obviously it’s going to be tough to learn a language in a month. I’m going to try my best. My mom is singing the Japanese national anthem in the house. I’m repeating it. We’re just doing little stuff like that.”
Japan has won the WBC twice, but not since 2009, and is managed by Hideki Kuriyama. Japan won the opening event in 2006. The Dominican Republic was the champion in 2013, and the United States won the last time it was played in 2017.
The WBC will be played in Japan, Taiwan and the United States from March 8-21. It features 20 national teams, and the powers from Asia will be Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia.
Latin America will feature the largest contingent with Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama and Nicaragua.
The United States and Canada are also entered.
Japan will play its first game March 9 against China in Pool B at the Tokyo Dome. The top two teams in Pool A and B will play single-elimination quarterfinals on March 15-16 in Tokyo. The winners more on to the semifinals in Miami on March 19-20.
The final is March 21 in Miami.