BASEBALL/ Samurai Japan now a full-time endeavor
2011/10/14 (From The Asahi Shimbun)
Samurai Japan is here to stay.
Professional baseball team owners held a meeting last week in Tokyo and decided to make the Japanese national baseball team permanent. The name of the team will be Samurai Japan, which had been used during the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2009. The selection of the team manager and players will be deliberated at a later date.
Up until now, the Japanese national baseball team had been formed for each major international competition, such as the Olympics or WBC.
The new national team's first game is expected to be March 10, 2012, at Tokyo Dome. The team will play a charity game against Taiwan aimed at supporting regions devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. After the game, the team's management plans to seek dedicated sponsors for the club and manage the team under multi-year contracts. They will also aim to play regular international games or new international baseball tournaments.
The team is expected to cooperate with amateurs as well.
"This is aimed at boosting the players' honor and children's dreams, as well as securing and expanding the baseball population," explained Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Commissioner Ryozo Kato.
At the meeting, club owners also decided to add a sponsor's name to the Japan Series this season. The owners say they are now negotiating with major game-maker Konami Corp., with the goal of signing a multi-year contract with the firm. In terms of the long-standing issue of whether Japan will participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, they decided that Rakuten Eagles president Toru Shimada, who is head of the owners' council, and other executives will head to the United States as early as mid-October to negotiate with World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI), the WBC's organizing body.
Meanwhile, they decided to host the third game of next year's All-Star Series in quake-hit Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, on July 23 to support local rebuilding efforts.
An all-star game was also held in a quake-hit region this year. Instead of the initially planned Tokyo Dome, the third game was held July 24 at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi, the Eagles' damaged home stadium in Sendai. Next year, two all-star games were initially scheduled to be held. But the owners decided to add one more game to provide long-term support for disaster-hit regions, which is why Morioka was chosen as the site for the third game.
The first all-star game next season is scheduled to be held in Kyocera Dome Osaka on July 20, while the second game is expected to be held the following day at Botchan Stadium in Ehime Prefecture.