World Baseball Classic

Team Japan Pitcher Gifts Bags of Candy to Player Hit by Pitch

Roki Sasaki's heartwarming gesture was well recevied by the Czech Republic team

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Japanese hospitality continued on Monday at the World Baseball Classic with 21-year-old pitcher Roki Sasaki making a traditional apology gesture after hitting Czech Republic outfielder William Escala with a pitch on Saturday.

Sasaki met with Escala outside the team hotel in Tokyo, bearing two large bags of candy and leaving a signed baseball. Gifting candy reportedly is a Japanese tradition after hitting a batter.

The 21-year-old phenom pitched nearly four innings in his Classic debut, allowing two hits and one run, in addition to eight strikeouts and two walks.

Not captured in the stat sheet, however, was the 101-mph pitch that drilled Escala in the middle of the fourth inning. The 24-year-old from Miami crawled on his hands and knees after the hit, grabbed his left knee and cried out in pain. He ultimately stayed in the game while Sasaki was shut down one pitch later, tipping his hat to Escala on his way to the dugout.

Japan held on to their undefeated streak with a 10-2 win.

Escala said he asked Sasaki to sign the ball as a memory.

"Very cool," he said. "Something I'll cherish and never forget."

Others around the Czech Republic organization echoed their respect for Sasaki and the Japanese team.

"The Japanese culture never stops to amaze me each day we are here," captain Petr Zyma told "They once again took it to another level as a superstar that Roki is... It was a huge sign of respect."

Czech manager Pavel Chadim also told that Sasaki's gesture "reminded me that baseball is not just war or a business, but the sport of gentlemen."

The gestures of goodwill in Japan extend beyond the team. During Japan's fourth and final pool play match on Sunday against Australia, 2021 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani hit his first home run of the tournament. Instead of throwing elbows to make the catch in the stands, the lucky fan who secured the ball then proceeded to pass it around for others to take pictures with it.

Japan finished pool play 4-0 and will face off against Italy in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Czech Republic did not advance.

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