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Parting such sweet sorrow for Otsuka, Suzuki

Guest markotsay7

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Guest markotsay7



Akinori Otsuka had one regret yesterday.


?The whole team is flying home to Japan today for a celebration and I am stuck flying coach on a domestic flight to Arizona,? said the relief pitcher.


Outside the Omni Hotel after the last press conference of the first World Baseball Classic, the bulk of the Japanese championship team said goodbye to the two major league players who helped push them over the top ? Otsuka and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.


Manager Sadaharu Oh and several players praised the influence of Otsuka and Suzuki.


?The two major leaguers opened the horizons for the young players on this team,? said Oh. ?I am very happy about that. It helped us a lot.


?The Asian round was not very fierce. We knew we had to step up. And Ichiro and Otsuka helped everyone know what had to be done. The last month flew by. In that time, we were able to form a real team.


?I am proud of that.?


So is Suzuki.


?I am still excited,? Suzuki said 15? hours after Japan completed its 10-6 victory over Cuba in the championship game of the WBC at Petco Park. ?This is one of my best times in baseball.


?It has been a long time since I played Japanese baseball and with a Japanese team. It's just not skill; it's using your heads and playing every part of the game. If I had my way, I would want to play in the major leagues with this team. I really like this team.?


During their final press conference in San Diego, the Japanese ? speaking mostly to an audience of their countrymen ? praised San Diego and the concept of the WBC.


?This is good for more than baseball,? said Oh, who was flanked by Otsuka and Suzuki in the front row of a stage packed with the Japanese players and coaches.


?The secondary goal of the WBC was a cultural exchange. It was not a perfect event. But it was a very good start. My wish is that the world's baseball countries could do this more often. There was an excitement in the park that was exceptional. I hope the television audience could see it and understand it.?


Oh said the fact that Otsuka pitched with the Padres did not factor into his decision to have the right-hander pitch in both rounds of the weekend championships at Petco Park. But he was aware of it.


?In Japan, everyone knows where the Japanese players are playing in the United States. I was happy for Otsuka. But he was pitching because he was the right man to be pitching. . . . He and Ichiro did so much.?


?I learned a lot from Ichiro and Otsuka,? said Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki. ?I have gained so much courage from listening to them talk about playing in America.?


Other members of Japan's WBC team could soon be coming to America, including right-handed pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Most Valuable Player of the first WBC. Matsuzaka, whose fastball was clocked at 93-96 mph, noted he will be eligible to sign with a United States team in another year.


?That's what I have in mind,? he said.


Oh closed the book on the WBC by again thanking Mexico for defeating the United States in the last game of pool play to enable Japan to qualify for the final weekend.


TV ratings solid

Television ratings for the WBC finished above ESPN's average for regular-season major league games. For eight live telecasts, ESPN averaged a 1.3 cable rating, equivalent to 1.13 million households. The network averaged a 1.0 rating last year for its major league coverage.


ESPN's final telecast was Monday night's championship game between Cuba and Japan, which earned a 1.8 cable rating, equal to 1.64 million homes.


ESPN2's average rating for nine live WBC telecasts was 0.8, or 762,000 homes. ESPN2 averaged a 0.6 rating for its regular-season games last year.


The highest rating for any ESPN telecast was for Thursday's U.S.-Mexico game, which earned a 2.1, equivalent to almost 2 million households.


Ratings in San Diego were higher than the national average, topped by a 3.6 rating (for all homes, not just those with cable) for the U.S.-Korea game on March 13. The U.S.-Mexico game recorded a 3.2 rating here.


The local rating for Monday night's game will not be available until today.


Cubans greeted as heroes

Cuba gave its baseball team a hero's welcome and said the runner-up prize money from the World Baseball Classic would go to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.


Even though they lost to Japan, the amateur Cuban players were received as champions for getting so far in a tournament organized by professional baseball. Cheering school children and workers lined streets waving Cuban flags and shouting ?Viva Cuba!? as the players rode into Havana in a motorcade of open Soviet-era military jeeps.


Hall of Fame note

Spikes worn by Oh and a batting helmet worn by Suzuki in Japan's championship victory are going to the sport's Hall of Fame.


The items will go on display next month at the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Hall of Fame said in a news release.


In addition to the items used by Ichiro and Oh, the Hall of Fame received a jersey worn by tournament MVP Matsuzaka.

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