23/02/2024 1 Minute Read

Hirokazu Ibata on Global Baseball Games: "Europe is talented"

The WBSC had a chance to talk to the Samurai Japan manager in Tokyo. "I approached players who I want or expect to be at the Premier12."

"There’s no question European players are improving with each year," Hirokazu Ibata said as the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) spoke to the Samurai Japan manager ahead of the Global Baseball Games, the CARNEXT SAMURAI JAPAN SERIES, scheduled for 6 and 7 March in Osaka. "We played Team Europe in an exhibition in 2015 and split the series. We beat them in the first game, but we had to come from behind in the eighth, so there was every chance we could have been swept. They are that talented.

"We played the Czechs last year, the Netherlands are strong, as well as Spain and Italy. Germany too. I don’t think we can let up because Europe is constantly improving," Ibata added.

You have a roster mixing international baseball veterans and younger prospects. Can you explain why you made this choice?

"Our ultimate goal for the year is the WBSC Premier12. For these games against Europe, I approached players who I wanted or expected to be there. Some players represented Japan at the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. Others played in the Asia Championship, and I want to look at others first hand. Not to mention the new blood we must bring in. I'm happy with the selection; it has gone as I imagined it would be."

Outfielder Shunsuke Tamura has very limited NPB experience. What convinced you to select him?

"I've been watching him since high school. From then to his rookie year to last season, his growth has been impressive across a wide range. He is coming along really well. I wanted to call him up for the Asia Championship last fall, but he injured himself when a pitch hit him in the wrist."