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Japan to play in World Baseball Classic

TOKYO -- Japan officially agreed Friday to take part in baseball's first World Cup-style tournament.

After months of negotiations between the Japanese commissioner's office and players' association, a letter accepting an invitation to take part in the World Baseball Classic was delivered to Major League Baseball's Tokyo office.

"I am pleased that Nippon Professional Baseball and its players' association have agreed to participate in the first ever World Baseball Classic," commissioner Bud Selig said in a
statement. "Japanese players are among the best in the world and
their participation in this event is important to the global growth
of the sport."

Japanese baseball officials originally expressed an intent take part in the tournament in November but didn't get the final approval of the players until Friday.

"This is the first step toward playing in a truly international tournament, something our association has been longing for," said Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta, head of Japan's players'
association.

Both initially objected because the tournament will be held during spring training and because it is being organized by Major League Baseball and its players' association, rather than an international body.

The World Baseball Classic is an 18-day, 16-nation event to take place in the United States, Asia and Latin America starting March 3.