The Japan Times
Thursday, March 26, 2009
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
NARITA, Chiba Pref. (Kyodo) Japan returned home to a heroes' welcome Wednesday after successfully defending its World Baseball Classic title.
The team was greeted with loud cheers from around 1,200 fans as Japan manager Tatsunori Hara led his team through a packed arrivals lobby at Narita airport.
"We are able to come back to Japan as the No. 1 team in the world. We battled to the best of our ability," Hara told a press conference.
"We showed Japan's strength through tenacity and mental toughness, especially in the final against South Korea. The players are able to come home with their heads held high. I am extremely proud to be manager of the world's No. 1 team," added the Yomiuri Giants skipper.
Japan knocked out the United States in the semifinals before going on to beat Asian rival and Beijing Olympic champion South Korea 5-3 in 10 innings in Monday's final in Los Angeles.
Millions of people across Japan tuned in to watch the final live on television while Prime Minister Taro Aso hailed the team's efforts, saying, "We have reaffirmed the fundamental power of our country through this tournament."
Japan beat Cuba in San Diego to win the inaugural WBC in 2006.