Four countries with varied baseball histories converge in Tokyo this weekend for the first round of games in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
Japan is the host nation for Pool A, and it is the most established baseball power in East Asia. The Japanese have legitimate stars in the Major Leagues, and some think the upper echelon of Japan's pro league can be competitive with the MLB's best.
Akinori Iwamura is looking forward to playing baseball on American soil in the World Baseball Classic. And he fully expects to have that chance when the dust settles from Classic action at Tokyo Dome, and he hopes it isn't the last time he plays in a Major League park.
Shunsuke Watanabe gave up three hits in four innings, leading Team Japan to a 5-1 win over his regular-season teammates -- the Chiba Lotte Marines -- in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game at Yahoo! Dome on Saturday.
Japan became the first team in the World Baseball Classic field to deal with an injury directly related to the tournament, as pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pulled out of the WBC after injuring his left index finger in an exhibition game on Saturday in Fukuoka, Japan.
Koji Uehara was almost unhittable for five innings. But that was where it ended. Pitch count stalled the Yomiuri Giants star's chance to take his shutout further, but by then, Japan was in control and breezed to a 7-0 win over the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Stars in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game Friday at Yahoo! Dome.
Japan and Korea have turned Yahoo! Dome into baseball's biggest house party leading up to the World Baseball Classic. The massive dome in southern Japan is host to both Japan's and Korea's respective training camps, leading up to Friday's first exhibition game between Japan and the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Stars.
Hideki Matsui joined a long line of Yankees to defend the decision about whether to play in the World Baseball Classic on Monday after he worked out for the first time at the Yankees' Spring Training complex.
Pitchers across Asia are used to throwing baseballs with horsehide covering, but in the World Baseball Classic, they'll be using balls that are covered in cowhide. That's nothing to fuss about, you might say, but some of the hurlers in Group A beg to differ.
One of the more intriguing story lines at the upcoming WBC should be the chance for unsung players to step up and share the spotlight with the household names of many of the Major League stars who will participate.