Samurai Japan have won. Last Wednesday, March 22nd, The Japan National Baseball Team defeated the defending champions, Team USA, in a 3-2 victory gaining their 3rd World Baseball Classic title, the first since 2009.
The final was a great showdown, with the two best teams in the world facing each other, and the 9th and last inning of the game couldn’t get more climatic: Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s superstar (who plays for Los Angeles Angels) pitching to U.S. legend Mike Trout, his teammate in the Angels team. This is everything the fans had dreamed of, and it was happening in a decisive play for the victory. The duel was won by the Japanese player, who tossed away his hat and glove in an explosion of joy, joined by his teammates and by the celebrations of all the fans.
Shohei Ohtani, the 28-year-old from Ōshū, a small city in Iwate Prefecture, was already considered by some one of the best, if not the best baseball player who has ever lived. At the end of the final, he was named the most valuable player of the tournament for his outstanding performances, and there is no doubt that he is now ranked number 1 worldwide.
This is more than just a sports win for Japan. It is a powerful injection of confidence and soft power going straight into the country’s veins. At this moment, Shohei Ohtani is the face representing Japan in the eyes of the world. A country’s power and international influence comes not only from the status of its economy and its political agenda, but also from its cultural influence. And there is no doubt that Samurai Japan’s win last week and Ohtani’s worldwide fame represent an enormous positive value for Japan.