Japan's World Baseball Classic team can generate about 59.6 billion yen ($444 million) in economic effects if it wins the tournament, Kansai University professor emeritus Katsuhiro Miyamoto said Tuesday.

Expectations have grown as the WBC will be played for the first time in six years after a COVID-19 postponement and features not only Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani and San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish but also Japan-based stars such as Munetaka Murakami and Roki Sasaki.

San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish (C), a member of Japan's World Baseball Classic team, responds to autograph requests from fans at the team's spring training camp on Feb. 18, 2023, in Miyazaki, southwestern Japan. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Last year, Yakult Swallows third baseman Murakami became Japanese baseball's youngest Triple Crown winner at age 22. Lotte Marines right-hander Sasaki became the youngest pitcher to throw a perfect game at age 20.

"Many Japanese people are hoping to see a WBC victory for Samurai Japan at a time when there is so much depressing news such as the coronavirus, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continued inflation," said the professor emeritus in theoretical economics.

The latest projection is about 25.3 billion yen more than the estimate for the previous WBC in 2017.

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