Murakami Munetaka (Yakult Swallows) of the Japanese baseball team expressed his impressions of winning the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Murakami was as dramatic as Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels), the “manga character” who won the MVP of this tournament. Murakami, a big shot who hit 56 homers last year, was dropped as the fourth hitter for the Japanese national team, but fell into a slump from practice matches and official evaluation matches.
Eventually, the batting order was changed to the 5th hitter during the tournament. Murakami only had a batting average of 0.143 with 2 hits and 7 strikeouts in 14 at-bats in 4 games in the group stage. Murakami seemed to come back alive by hitting two doubles in the quarterfinal match against Italy, but in the semifinal match against Mexico, he recorded 3 strikeouts in his first 4 at-bats, adding to the team’s inferiority, causing deep regret.
But Murakami did it. In the semi-finals, 4-5, in the ninth inning, he scored 2 RBIs in the middle of the ninth inning, leading Japan to the final. Japanese coach Hideki Kuriyama shed tears in an interview after the semi-final, saying, “I believed that Murakami would help us win.”
In the final match on the 22nd (Korean time), Murakami also hit a solo home run against U.S. starter Merrill Kelly in the second inning to tie the game 1-1. Murakami finished this tournament with 6 hits in 26 at-bats (1 home run), 6 RBI, 6 runs in 7 games, and a batting average of 0.231.
On the 23rd, Murakami said on SNS, “Thank you for your support. I was very distressed because I couldn’t get results in this tournament. Nevertheless, I am grateful to coach Kuriyama, who believed in me and appointed me, and to my world-class teammates and fans who supported me. There were voices of criticism, but I received more encouragement than that. 스포츠토토
He continued, “Winning the WBC has been a dream for me since I was young. First of all, I am really grateful for this tournament that allowed me to achieve one dream and set a higher goal. I was happy to be there,” he said, looking back at the WBC tournament.
Murakami said, “I still have a lot of thoughts left, but I’m full of gratitude for all of you now. Lastly, I just wanted to make Kuriyama a world champion coach and this team to win. The importance of working hard for someone. I could feel it,” he added.
Lastly, Murakami said, “Suzuki-san, Kuribayashi-san did it!” and also mentioned players who left the national team due to injuries, such as Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs) and Ryoji Kuriyabashi (Hiroshima Toyo Carp). At the victory ceremony on the 22nd, Murakami also showed a touching image of Suzuki’s national team uniform with him.