Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has officially suspended its season for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and won’t resume until Friday, 13 August.
With the biggest professional sports league in Japan on pause, the Samurai Japan National Baseball Team opened camp at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Monday, 19 July.
Samurai Japan’s target for Olympic gold was given a boost on Thursday, 15 July, when every NPB player on the national team roster was given the green light by their respective NPB clubs in one mass transaction.
World No. 1 Japan will play two warm-up games ahead of their Olympic opener. At noon JST on Saturday, 24 July, they will take on the Rakuten Golden Eagles and on the 25th, the team will face the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants at 6:00 p.m.
Japan will open their Olympic tournament against No. 7 Dominican Republic at 12:00 p.m. at Fukushima Azuma Stadium on 28 July. Japan’s second Olympic game will also be at noon, on 31 July, against No. 5 Mexico.
Japan manager Atsunori Inaba intends to simulate the conditions of the Olympic tournament, according to the Samurai Japan official website.
“The players don’t have a lot of experience playing at noon,” Inaba said. “The aim is to match how you spend your time in the morning and how you spend it until you enter the game.”
Inaba also is looking to Rakuten pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (photoed) to take a leadership role on the team. The former Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star is the only player on the 24-man roster with Olympic experience.
“I want more and more young players to communicate with Tanaka,” Inaba said. “At the World Baseball Classic in 2009, Ichiro was at the forefront of everything from the warm-up, so we had a lot to learn. That’s why I want Tanaka to take the lead this time.”
Inaba on managing the pitching staff and bullpen
“I saw during the WBSC Premier12 2019 that you often need to replace the starting pitcher early. In addition, we will have to cope with the summer heat, so I thought I would select as many pitchers as possible, and I went with 11.”