Baseball has long been America's pastime, but if the last two World Baseball Classics are any indication, it's becoming a game dominated by the Far East. Japan has proved to be king by winning both tournaments, capped by its epic, 5-3 win in 10 innings over Korea on Monday.
After he retires from Major League Baseball, Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki might very well be headed to the Hall of Fame. But for now, the right fielder is contributing to Cooperstown's collection by donating his bat from the first round of this year's World Baseball Classic.
The Samurai, as Team Japan is known at home, started this wild, worldwide ride almost three weeks ago, and sure enough they finished it, throwing the first and last pitches of the second edition of the World Baseball Classic.
After Korea sent the game into extras, Japan successfully defended its Classic title, winning, 5-3, on Monday behind Ichiro Suzuki's two-run single in the 10th.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic for the second time on Monday after Japan beat Korea, 5-3, in the final.
The World Baseball Classic trophy will return to Asia for the second successive time in the tournament's brief history. Japan hopes the hardware returns to its home country -- again.
For the fifth time in this year's Classic, Japan will face Korea, but on Monday, it'll be in defense of its title after it beat Team USA, 9-4, in Sunday's semifinal.
Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki didn't go as far as to call Japan the favorite when his country squares off against Team USA on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET at Dodger Stadium. But he didn't call Japan the underdog, either.
The injury to Japanese first baseman Shuichi Murata is more serious than was first suspected on Thursday, manager Tatsunori Hara said on Friday. Murata has a torn right hamstring and was sent back to Japan on Friday as his teammates worked out in preparation for Sunday night's World Baseball Classic semifinal against Team USA.
Japan plays Team USA on Sunday for the right to reach the final and defend their 2006 World Baseball Classic title, and the squad is scurrying to replace first baseman Shuichi Murata, who was lost for the tournament on Thursday.