Japanese baseball star Tanaka has qualified for Tokyo 2020 after returning to NPB

Japanese baseball star Tanaka has qualified for Tokyo 2020 after returning to NPB

Baseball star Masahiro Tanaka is back from the US to play in Japan © Getty Images

Japanese baseball star Masahiro Tanaka will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following a return to the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Pacific League.

After a seven-year stint with the New York Yankees in the United States, Tanaka will return to the Rakuten Eagles after playing for the team between 2007 and 2013.

During a press conference when he returned to Japan, Tanaka revealed that he wants to participate in Tokyo 2020.

The 32-year-old previously competed in Beijing in 2008, helping Japan to a fourth place.

“If I ever have a chance to participate, there is no reason for me to reject,” he said in comments reported by France media agency.

“I had a bitter feeling when I played in the Beijing Olympics … this time I want to win a gold medal.”

Japan finished fourth in Beijing in 2008.

The Rakuten Eagles play in the Pacific League, one of two professional baseball leagues in Japan that make up the NPB.

NPB is set to break for Tokyo 2020, so that Tanaka can represent the national team at the games.

Masahiro Tanaka helped Japan to fourth place in baseball competition at Beijing 2008 Olympics © Getty Images
Masahiro Tanaka helped Japan to fourth place in baseball competition at Beijing 2008 Olympics © Getty Images

He had not been able to do so while still playing Major League Baseball (MLB), with the competition scheduled to run at the same time as the Olympics.

Tanaka was named the Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player in 2013 and was selected to the MLB All-Star Games in 2014 and 2019.

Baseball will return to the Olympic program this year for the first time since Beijing 2008.

Following the postponement of Tokyo 2020 to 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition is now scheduled to run from July 24 to August 8.

Baseball matches are scheduled to run from July 28 to August 7 at Yokohama Stadium and Fukushima Azuma Stadium.

Japan has participated in baseball at all the games the sport has participated in, finishing second in Atlanta in 1996, third in Barcelona in 1992 and Athens in 2004, and fourth in Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008.

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