Ohtani excited to face Team USA 'superstars' in WBC final after 'epic' Japan win

By Sports Desk March 21, 2023

MLB Opening Day is still over a week away but several of baseball's biggest names will be in action on Tuesday – and Shohei Ohtani cannot wait.

The final of the World Baseball Classic will pit Ohtani's Japan against the might of defending champions the United States.

With Ohtani planning to hit and pitch in relief as he ramps up his preparations for the new season, all eyes will be on his potential matchup with Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout, the Team USA captain.

"It's not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars, household names," Ohtani said.

"I'm just excited to face that lineup. It's a great thing for Japanese baseball."

Ohtani was speaking after Japan's dramatic 6-5 comeback win over Mexico that booked their spot in the final.

In an apparent nod to the Angels' eight-year absence from the MLB playoffs – spanning his entire career – Ohtani said: "It's been a while since I've played in a win-or-lose game, in a playoff atmosphere."

Munetaka Murakami, a Japanese Triple Crown winner last year, clinched Japan's victory with a walk-off double at the bottom of the ninth.

"It was the best, epic," said Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, while Mexico manager Benji Gil graciously added: "Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight."

That is still not enough for Ohtani, though, as the two-way superstar said: "Obviously, it's a big accomplishment to get to the championship series.

"But there's a big difference from being in first and second, so I'm going to do all I can to get that first place."

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