"I'm sure Japan kids will think it's cool and want to play baseball, and I'm happy about that," said
the winner, who won the WBC = World Baseball Classic for the first time in three tournaments since 2009. Looking at the players who won the title of world champion, the coach looked at the children of the future chasing the white ball.
(Sports News Department, Reporter, Takahiro Kanazawa)
The continuation of "Recapturing the World's No. 1"
When he was appointed as the coach of the Japan National Team in December, coach KURIYAMA Hideki set a goal of course, "regaining the world title."
But there was more to this goal.
"I want to do it for the future of baseball and for the development of the next generation."
After retiring as a professional baseball player, Coach Kuriyama continued to cover a wide range of baseball from high school baseball to the major leagues as a sportscaster, and has always learned about "baseball, which I love" and has been working while feeling close to me.
At his home in Kuriyama Town, Hokkaido, he has a ground where you can play youth baseball.
We have been doing our best to broaden the base of baseball by making use of our interviews and personal connections to display baseball goods such as uniforms and tools of professional baseball players and major leaguers so that you can touch them.
(Coach Hideki Kuriyama)
"I love the big leagues, and I went to cover them more than 100 times, and I bought merchandise there and collected them.
How to create a "dream team"
"For the future of baseball."
This belief was also evident in the team that was entrusted with reclaiming the world title for the first time in 14 years.
When Coach Kuriyama selected the national team, he focused not only on technical aspects but also on the mindset of the players.
Above all, there was a condition to be a player who has a soul and can impress.
In the process of calling out to members who meet these conditions, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, who is also a student of the Japan Ham era, will also be able to be called up.
In addition, the participation of pitcher Yu Darvish, who learned of the WBC championship in 2009, led to the formation of a dream team that has been hailed as "the strongest in history."
In particular, Darvish, who was the only pitcher on the team who had experienced being the best in the world, played a role in fostering a sense of unity in the team, believing that the growth of "Samurai Japan" itself is essential to achieve his goals based on his own experience.
He prioritized his activities at "Samurai Japan" rather than making adjustments with his own team, and participated in the Miyazaki training camp that started on 2 February. We actively exchanged opinions with the young players and deepened exchanges not only with pitchers but also with fielders.
Coach Kuriyama also paid tribute to Darvish Japan, saying, "They are such a presence that you can say 'Darvish Japan,' and they endure various things and do their best for the Japan."
Feeling Together at the Peppermill Performance
He also expressed how the players who are demonstrating their strength in professional baseball are inspired not only by Darvish, but also by Ohtani and Nootbar.
"There has been a chemical change in the team, and it will definitely be a great experience for their baseball career."
The ever-expanding power of "chemical change"
The WBC season has begun.
More than 1,5 fans attended the first round and quarterfinal five games at the Tokyo Dome, as you can see Otani's double-wielding style and big leaguers on the Japan.
"When I saw the tournament where Japan became the best in the world, I always wanted to compete in the WBC," said Ohtani, who expressed his strong desire to participate in the WBC, and many baseball fans watched him move vigorously on the field as if to embody that joy, hitting, throwing, and running.
The "chemical change" that occurred in the national team will spread to the viewers as they win.
As the tournament shifted to the United States, Coach Kuriyama also renewed his determination.
He emphasized that the outcome of this tournament will be important for the baseball world, which is entering a
transitional period in which the WBC is connected to
the future of Japan baseball.
(Head Coach Hideki Kuriyama)
"We will become the best in the world by defeating the United States, where big leaguers gather in this place where baseball was born Japan. If I'm selected, I definitely want to play there.'"
The semi-final match against Mexico was a dramatic one.
Semifinals Munetaka Murakami in a timely comeback
In a difficult situation where they could not take the lead even once, Munetaka Murakami, who was struggling in the ninth inning chasing one run, did not hesitate to entrust the opportunity to win the bye.
They made it through the semi-finals in tears for the second consecutive tournament with a dramatic match.
What's more, the final will be beyond imagination.
A relay of six pitchers, including Darvish, protected the lead and went into the top of the ninth inning with a 6-3 lead.
It was Ohtani who sent Coach Kuriyama to the mound where the pressure would be heavy if he held back.
No runners on two outs and one more out.
At bat was Trout, the captain of the United States and Ohtani's teammate at the Angels. The voltage at the venue is at its peak as the stars of Japan and the United States face each other.
Rounding out the world's best competition was Ohtani's slider that turned wide into the outcourse.
When the winner was decided, Ohtani threw his glove and hat and exploded with joy.
Ohtani spoke in an interview after the championship with joy in his heart, and those words were exactly what coach Kuriyama had been feeling.
"The best thing is that the seniors played a wonderful game from the first tournament and made me want to play here.
The Future of Baseball with the Best Results
Coach Kuriyama's expression at the post-match press conference showed the nervousness of a coach who had been ready for the match until just before, but as the press conference progressed, he gradually returned to watching the children's catch ball in Hokkaido as a baseball player who loves baseball.
"I'm sure Japan kids will think it's cool and want to play baseball, and I'm happy about that,"
said the fifth WBC = World Baseball Classic in March 2023.
The scene in which the Japan National Team lifted the championship trophy amid jubilation was also the moment when the baton was entrusted to the next generation, who will bear the "future of baseball," which Coach Kuriyama has been obsessed with.