World Baseball Classic heroes and former MLBers highlight Japan vs. Europe rosters

February 15th, 2024

If the answer was ever in doubt, this past year's World Baseball Classic put it to rest: Baseball is truly a global game -- Europe included. Great Britain and Czechia -- each playing in their respective country's first World Baseball Classic -- both picked up crucial wins, confirming a place in the 2026 tournament, while Italy reached the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual champions, Japan. Later in the year, Spain broke a 68-year drought when it won its first European Championship since 1955.

With all that success and a very bright future, the Global Baseball Games -- an exhibition series between Samurai Japan and an all-star team of Europe's brightest talents -- is back for the first time since 2015.

The rosters for the series, to be played March 6-7 at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan -- home of NPB's Orix Buffaloes -- were released on Wednesday, headlined by a number of former Major League stars and World Baseball Classic standouts.

While Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto won't be with the team because they'll be in big league camp, slugging superstar Munetaka Murakami will be with Samurai Japan ahead of the upcoming season with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Though Murakami is coming off a down year in NPB, the 24-year-old third baseman still has the kind of natural power -- he hit 56 home runs in 2022, breaking Sadaharu Oh's record for a Japanese-born player -- that has many Major League teams interested in bringing him to MLB when and if he's posted.

For now, he's most likely remembered for his game-winning walk-off double to defeat Mexico in the WBC semifinals:

In addition to Murakami, outfielder Kensuke Kondoh -- a standout at the World Baseball Classic -- and smooth-gloved shortstop Sosuke Genda are among the World Baseball Classic veterans joining the team.

In addition, keep an eye out for 21-year-old pitcher Shunpeita Yamashita. The Orix Buffalo pitcher posted a 1.99 ERA and has led some to predict that he could be the next Yamamato.

Meanwhile, Team Europe -- led by former Italy manager Marco Mazzeri -- brings together an All-Star crew of players from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Czechia and Germany. While many players have professional experience, there are three former Major Leaguers on the roster -- Rhiner Cruz and Engel Beltre from Spain and Alex Liddi from Italy -- along with a few big league brothers in Sharlon Schoop (brother of Jonathan) and Juremi Profar (brother of Jurickson) from the Netherlands. Spain's Wander Encarnacion, who won MVP at the European Championships after going 11-for-20 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in Spain's unexpected championship, also joins the roster.

In addition, the beloved underdog Czech Republic team will continue to cement their close relationship with Japanese baseball (Czech national team hitting coach Alex Derhak is also at Chiba Lotte Marines camp with Roki Sasaki this spring) by sending four players and manager/neurologist Pavel Chadim to the event. That includes team superstar and firefighter Martin Schneider, former Minor Leaguer Martin Cervenka, and slugger Martin Muzik, who hit the game-winning home run against China in the World Baseball Classic.

Eight years ago, these two teams battled to a 1-1 series tie. Now we'll see if the gap has upset the balance between them.

The full rosters are listed below.


PITCHERS (11) Shunpeita Yamashita, Hiroya Miyagi (ORIX Buffaloes); Shinya Matsuyama (Chunichi Dragons); Atsuki Taneichi (Chiba Lotte Marines); Masato Morishita (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Yumeto Kanemaru (Kansai University); Riyoji Kuribayashi (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Chihiro Sumida (Seibu Lions); Shota Watanabe (Rakuten Golden Eagles); Yuto Nakamura (Aichi Institute of Technology); Haruka Nemoto (Nippon Ham Fighters); Kaima Taira (Seibu Lions).
CATCHERS (3) Yuto Koga (Seibu Lions); Shogo Sakakura (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Yuudai Yamamoto (Yokohama DeNA Baystars).
INFIELDERS (7) Sousuke Genda (Seibu Lions); Takumu Nakano (Hanshin Tigers); Rui Muneyama (Meiji University); Koutarou Kurebayashi (Orix Buffaloes); Takaya Ishikawa (Chunichi Dragons); Kaito Kozono (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Munetaka Murakami (Tokyo Yakult Swallows).
OUTFIELDERS (5) Misho Nishikawa (Aoyama Gakuin University); Kensuke Kondoh (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks); Yasutaka Shiomi (Tokyo Yakult Swallows); Shunsuke Tamura (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Chubei Mannami (Nippon Ham Fighters).


PITCHERS (14) Daniel Alvarez, Fernando Baez, Rhiner Cruz (Spain); Matteo Bocchi, Tiago Da Silva, Luis Lugo (Italy); Tom De Blok, Lars Hujer, Kevin Kelly, Franklyn Van Gurp (Netherlands); Martin Schneider (Czechia); Sven Schueller, Marcus Solbach, Dalton Von Schamann (Germany).
CATCHERS (3) Martin Cervenka (Czechia), Gabriel Lino (Spain), Alberto Mineo (Italy).
INFIELDERS (7) Wander Ercanacion, Edison Valerio (Spain); Alex Liddi, Ricardo Paolini (Italy); Martin Muzik (Czechia); Juremi Profar, Sharlon Schoop (Netherlands).
OUTFIELDERS (3) Engel Beltre, Daniel Jimenez (Spain); Mareck Chlup (Czechia).
UTILITY (1) Delano Selassa (Netherlands).