Japanese high school baseball players discouraged from using World Baseball Classic star’s celebration

Lars Nootbaar has broken out as an unlikely star for Team Japan at the World Baseball Classic and his pepper-grinder celebration has been a hit with fans at the tournament.

However, any Japanese high school baseball looking to emulate the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder in their own games will not be able to. A player at Tohoku High School twisted his hands in a motion similar to that of Nootbaar, and was told by the umpire to stop.

Hiroshi Sato, the manager of the high school team, defended the player after Yamanashi Gakuin Senior High School defeated his team.

“It’s so popular the whole nation is talking about it,” Sato was quoted as saying in Japanese media. “The children are just having fun. Why do adults have to put a stop to it?

“We should be thinking more about how children can freely enjoy baseball.”

The Japan High School Baseball Federation commented on the celebration as well.


Team supporters gesture as Team Japan scored against Italy at the World Baseball Classic, at a sports bar in Tokyo, Thursday, March 16, 2023.

“We have always asked high school baseball to abstain from unnecessary performances and gestures. We understand the players’ feelings of wanting to have fun, but the federation believes the fun should come from the game,” the organization said.

Nootbaar’s pepper-grinder celebration was a hit in Japan’s five games at the Tokyo Dome, with cameras often catching Nootbaar’s teammates making the gesture as well.

Japan team's Lars Nootbaar gestures during a game against Australia on March 12, 2023, at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Nootbaar's pepper-grinder gesture is catching on all across Japan.

Nootbaar is a member of the Cardinals and is the first to play for Japan’s national team by virtue of ancestry. His mother is Japanese.

He is hitting .368 with three RBI in five games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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