Nine Olympic gold medalists to lead World No. 1 Japan in World Baseball Classic 2023

Nine Olympic gold medalists to lead World No. 1 Japan in World Baseball Classic 2023
Ryoji Kuribayashi, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Takuya Kai; Sosuke Genda, Munetaka Murakami, Tetsuto Yamada Kensuke Kondo, Masataka Yoshida and Seiya Suzuki competed in the Tokyo 2020 Games. Manager Hideki Kuriyama announced a 30-player roster also featuring five MLB players, including two-way superstar, WBSC Premier12 hero Shohei Ohtani and World Baseball Classic winner Yu Darvish.

World No. 1 Japan announced the 30-player roster for the World Baseball Classic 2023.

The list includes five players on Major League Baseball (MLB) 25-man rosters, pitchers Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani and outfielders Seiya Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida and Lars Nootbaar.

Nootbar, 25, hit 19 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022. He is the only player on the roster not developed in Japan. He was born in California, USA, to a Japanese mother.

Every other player is on active Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) rosters.

Nine players on the roster helped Japan win a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, pitchers Ryoji Kuribayashi, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto; catcher Takuya Kai; infielders Sosuke Genda, Munetaka Murakami, Tetsuto Yamada and outfielders Kensuke Kondo, Yoshida and Suzuki.

Darvish is the only player left from the World Baseball Classic 2009 winning team.

Manager Hideki Kuriyama said during a press conference that he worked carefully to round out a balanced team that would give him the best shot at a title while showing the "fighting spirit that is the heart of Japan's baseball."

Ten of the 15 pitchers on the roster have previously started. Kuriyama said he hasn't worked on a complete plan yet.

"We'll work things out as we go. There are challenges. The ball is different, and it's very early in the year for them. I want to use players in roles they will be comfortable with and will consult them. But in the end, our sole focus is winning."

The full roster

PITCHERS (15) Yu Darvish (San Diego Padres), Shota Imanaga (DeNA BayStars), Hiromi Ito (Nippon Ham Fighters), Ryoji Kuribayashi (Hiroshima Carp), Yuki Matsui (Rakuten Eagles), Hiroya Miyagi (Orix Buffaloes), Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels), Taisei Ota (Yomiuri Giants), Roki Sasaki (Lotte Marines), Hiroto Takahashi (Chunichi Dragons), Keiji Takahashi (Yakult Swallows), Shosei Togo (Yomiuri Giants), Yuki Udagawa (Orix Buffaloes), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), Atsuki Yuasa (Hanshin Tigers).

CATCHERS (3) Takuya Kai (SoftBank Hawks), Yuhei Nakamura (Yakult Swallows), Takumi Oshiro (Yomiuri Giants).

INFIELDERS (7) Sosuke Genda (Seibu Lions), Shugo Maki (DeNA BayStars), Munetaka Murakami (Yakult Swallows), Takumu Nakano (Hanshin Tigers), Kazuma Okamoto (Yomiuri Giants), Tetsuto Yamada (Yakult Swallows), Hotaka Yamakawa (Seibu Lions).

OUTFIELDERS (5) Kensuke Kondo (SoftBank Hawks), Lars Nootbaar (St. Louis Cardinals), Ukyo Shuto (SoftBank Hawks), Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs), Masataka Yoshida (Boston Red Sox).

Japan will host Group B at the Tokyo Dome from 9 to 13 March and face World No. 4 Korea, No. 10 Australia, No. 15 Czechia and No. 30 China.