by WBSC Baseball Division, www.ibaf.org
TOKYO – The international stage is set for Tuesday’s opening of the historic two-game series where newly established “Team Europe” will make its world premiere against the top-ranked Japanese National Team at the iconic Tokyo Dome on 10-11 March.
There will be a live broadcast of the two-game series (Game times: 18:00 Japanese Standard Time). The games will be televised free-to-air nationally across Japan by the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). In Europe, Eurosport 2 will broadcast the games live across their platforms to potentially 73 million households in over 50 European nations.
Europe team manager Steve Janssen (National Team manager of No. 5 Netherlands) and “Samurai Japan” skipper Hiroki Kokubo announced their Game 1 starting pitchers Monday in front of a packed press room at QVC Chiba Marine Stadium for the pre-event press conference.
In front of a flurry of flashing cameras (See video clip), Janssen told reporters that he will hand the ball to legendary Dutch pitcher Rob Cordemans (Amsterdam Pirates). The 40-year-old decorated veteran was the starter against a potent 2011 Cuban National Team in the gold medal finale of the XXXVIII Baseball World Cup in Panama, where the four-time Olympian shut down stars like Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox, MLB), Alfredo Despaigne (Chiba Lotte Marines, NPB) and Yulieski Gourriel (Yokohama DeNA BayStars, NPB) to help the Netherlands – and Europe — win their first-ever world championship. Cordemans’ fellow Dutch- and now Europe teammate, Curt Smith (2014, Springfield Cardinals, MiLB), was the 2011 World Cup MVP. (See Team Europe roster and bios)
Kokubo will turn to rising star and 2014 NPB Central League Rookie of the Year Daichi Ohsera (Hiroshima Toyo Carp). Ohsera, 23, first put on the Japan’s National Team jersey in 2013 for a three-game series against Chinese Taipei.
The Japanese National Team last played in November when Kokubo guided the Samurai to victory over Team MLB in a best-of-five series in Japan. Kokubo will have 19 players from that November roster, including the Nippon-Ham Fighters’ megastar first baseman, Sho Nakata. (See Samurai Japan roster)
“Samurai Japan doesn’t have a weak spot…even the fans here in Japan are some of the best in the world,” Janssen said of world No. 1 National Team.
Excitement and growing interest surrounds the debut of Team Europe in Tokyo versus the top ranked nation in the world, Japan. A wave of media followed each day of Team Europe’s training tour, where for the last week the team has held indoor practice sessions as the honoured guests of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Chiba Lotte Mariners and Yomiuri Giants minor league affiliate.
“I would like to thank the WBSC and NPB for putting this great initiative together to help grow our game,” Janssen said. “It’s a great opportunity not only to showcase European baseball, but also how global our sport has become.”
Kokubo said: “Baseball is growing in Europe. There are two teams from Europe in the Premier 12. This is a great opportunity for the fans to witness European baseball.”
Kokubo says uniting his team to play against Europe will benefit the preparations of Samurai Japan leading to November’s inaugural WBSC Premier 12 that will unite the top 12 Men’s National Teams in the world.
Team Europe and Italian National Team member Alessandro Maestri (Orix Buffaloes, NPB) answered reporters, “This is going to be a great experience to represent Europe and play against some of my teammates and players [whom] I play against [in NPB].”
Most of the players on the European team, who have played against each other over the years in international competition and in the European Championships, will now be playing together for the for time.
“Baseball is a sport that unites,” said Janssen.