Former Yankee Tanaka to pitch for Japan’s Olympic team
Written by tokyoclub on June 16, 2021
Masahiro Tanaka, who rejoined the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles this year after seven seasons with the New York Yankees, was among the 24 players named Wednesday to Japan’s Olympic baseball team for the Tokyo Games.
Samurai Japan manager Atsunori Inaba officially announced the full Olympic roster at a press conference in Tokyo, with pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the PL’s Orix Buffaloes and outfielder Seiya Suzuki of the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp also making the team.
Former New York Yankee Masahiro Tanaka allows a run over seven innings for the Rakuten Eagles in their 3-1 Pacific League defeat to the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium on May 22, 2021. (Kyodo)
Both were members of Japan’s 2019 Premier12 championship roster, along with Hayato Sakamoto of the CL’s Yomiuri Giants and Hiroshima’s Ryosuke Kikuchi, who have been selected for the Olympic team as infielders.
“These are players who possess speed and power — two qualities I’ve been talking about since my appointment (as national team manager). I selected players who’d give us the best chance of winning a gold medal,” Inaba said.
The newcomers to the squad include young Carp pitchers Masato Morishita, 23, and Ryoji Kuribayashi, 24, who is among the CL saves leaders as a rookie.
Two veteran stars who missed the second edition of the Premier12, an Olympic qualifying tournament, after injury-hit 2019 seasons — Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano and slugging SoftBank Hawks outfielder Yuki Yanagita — were also named to the team.
Japan, whose only baseball gold medal came in 1984 when the sport was not part of the official Olympic program, will open its Olympic tournament on July 28 at Fukushima Azuma stadium. The gold and bronze medal games will be played on Aug. 7 at Yokohama Stadium.
Samurai Japan will play practice games against the Eagles and Giants to gear up for the pandemic-delayed games.