Team Japan is headed to the finals after their epic 6-5 win over Mexico in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Monday night.
The final game will take place on Tuesday as Japan matches up with Team USA.
Japan pulled off two late-inning rallies to stun Mexico on Monday, winning on Munetaka Murakami‘s two-run double off of St. Louis Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos.
But Japan may not be in this position if not for a certain Cardinals teammate of Gallegos.
Lars Nootbaar chose to represent Team Japan this year in the WBC and has been a spark plug for the team.
On Twitter, Bally Sports Midwest, the TV home of the Cardinals, posted an interesting stat to show just how strong Nootbaar has been during the tournament.
To the #WorldBaseballClassic final go Lars Nootbaar and Team Japan. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/gJdWthVjCw
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) March 21, 2023
Nootbaar’s loose personality and sense of humor is well documented.
But his game reaches a completely different level when he’s out on the field.
Through six games in this year’s WBC, the 25-year-old outfielder is hitting .318 with seven runs scored and three RBI.
Nootbaar has had a chance to live out a dream playing for Japan this spring.
The young outfielder is of Japanese descent and had always wanted to represent Japan in the WBC.
And he sure has made the most of it.
He’s swinging a hot bat and has also been somewhat of a motivational leader, with his teammates listening to him during pregame speeches and even going as far as to adopt his famous “grind the pepper” celebration.
Japan has fallen in love with him quickly, just as fans in St. Louis had.NEXT: Cardinals Analyst Proposes Interesting Number Scenario