SPRINGFIELD, Mo–The World Baseball Classic is back for the first time since 2017.

20 teams started pool play Wednesday.

The best baseball players in the world are representing their home countries in this World Cup type tournament.

A number of St. Louis Cardinals are taking part including former Springfield Cardinal Lars Nootbaar.

March Madness has a whole new meaning for St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar.

“Playing in those crazy environments, those playoff like environments in March. I think that’s an advantage,” said Nootbaar.

The California native is playing in the World Baseball Classic not for the United States, but for Team Japan.

Nootbaar:”I’m super excited to play in the Tokyo Dome. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be rocking, it’s going to be crazy. I think the environment will be great.”

Nootbaar’s mother is Japanese and her side of the family still lives just south of Tokyo.

“I’m ready to get back to baseball, represent Japan. My mom is super proud. She’s super excited about it. As a family we’re really excited. And my family in Japan is really pumped up too,” said Nootbaar.

Nootbaar is the first player to suit up for a Japanese national team who wasn’t born in Japan.

He’s batting leadoff and got a hit in his first exhibition at bat for Japan.

But it’s more than just playing in the classic, for Nootbaar, it’s reuniting his family.

Nootbaar:”When I was a kid we went back there once a year. But I haven’t been there in what 15 years….I don’t really get to see that side of the family much. And my mom doesn’t either. For me to be able to accept the offer and go over there and play. And bring her back to her family…and now she’s hearing from some of her hometown friends she grew up with. It’s cool for me to be able to help her do that a little bit.”

The left fielder isn’t the only Cardinal playing in the classic.

St. Louis has 19 players spread throughout the world wide teams, 13 with big league experience.

That includes Adam Wainwright, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt playing for Team USA.

“I want to play them. I really do. I want to play them really badly. I think it’ll be fun to play against them. That team is loaded. And anytime you can play a loaded roster like that you want to see how you match up,” said Nootbaar.

20 teams from across the globe have started pool play this week.

Quarterfinals start March 15th, with the championship on March 21st in Miami.

Nootbaar hopes to be there, with his mother of course.

Nootbaar: “She’s a gamer. She’s ready to get it on and play in that dome. She feels like she’s playing outfield for the team.”