To celebrate Japan’s victory at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), as well as the Japanese players in Miami Marlin’s history, Japanese Heritage Day will be observed on Sept. 19 at loanDepot Park. I will be honored to play a part by throwing the first pitch.
The success of the WBC, hosted in Miami in March, is still fresh in our minds, especially the final match between Japan and the United States. Notably, baseball enthusiasts worldwide were thrilled to see Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels striking out his teammate and three-time MVP Mike Trout, in the final inning of that game. Featuring such excellent players and thrilling moments, this year’s WBC contributed greatly to the deepening grassroots exchange between Japan and Miami.
Baseball is an elegant sport, which requires every player to believe in values such as playing by the rules, honesty and mutual respect. I was pleased that Japan and the United States faced each other in the final game, since both love baseball and uphold specific values that are rooted in the sport. Those values help undergird the U.S.-Japan commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights, which strongly bind us together as the most important allies for the free world.
Throughout the world, however, those values are being challenged by those who believe might is right. Look at what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine and what Xi Jinping is doing in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Japan and the United States, two nations deeply rooted in these values, are standing up protect these regions and to counter those who challenge them. We are enhancing our alliance, building up our military capabilities and readiness, and collaborating with friends and like-minded states to defeat Russia in Ukraine, discourage China’s aggression and promote our common values worldwide. The WBC was held at this juncture, and it was symbolic that the United States and Japan met in the final game this year.
I also threw the opening pitch at the loanDepot Park last year, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of baseball in Japan. In 1872, an American school teacher introduced the sport to his students in Tokyo. Ever since, baseball has played an important role to deepen our two nations’ friendship and is now helping to strengthen our alliance to uphold and promote our common values.
I believe the United States and Japan will continue to love baseball. The shared love of this great game helps us stay committed to our core principles of a free world.
Kazuhiro Nakai is consul general of Japan in Miami.