Baseball-WBC win the best moment of my life, says Japan's Ohtani

Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan relief pitcher Shohei Ohtani (16) celebrates after defeating the USA at LoanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Shohei Ohtani described Japan's triumph over the United States in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) final as the best moment of his life and said he has already set his sights on the next edition of the global showcase in 2026.

Ohtani struck out Mike Trout, the U.S. captain and his Los Angeles Angels team mate, to seal a thrilling 3-2 victory as Japan won their third WBC title on Tuesday.

"This is the best moment in my life," Ohtani, 28, told reporters. "Just because we won today doesn't mean that we achieved a final goal, this is just a passing point. Our team has just started, so I think we need to tune-up for the future.

"I think the next (WBC) is three years later, I'm going to have to keep the same level and hopefully I'll be a better player ... I would love to enter again.

"I've seen Japan winning and I just wanted to be part of it. I really appreciate that I was able to have this great experience. The next generation, the kids, I was hoping that those people would like to play baseball. That would make me happy."

Ohtani, who was named the WBC's Most Valuable Player, delivered a fiery speech to his team mates before the game, telling them not to be overawed by the star-studded U.S. team.

"Just looking at the great lineup of players ... obviously, we have respect, but at the same time, it looks like we might be beaten down," Ohtani added.

"So just forget about those kind of feelings, we're just even, we just have to beat them - I just wanted to bring that feeling up among us.

"This really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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