Lars Nootbaar’s ethnicity — All you need to know about his parents

Lars Nootbaar

Lars Nootbaar helped Japan beat the USA in the final of the World Baseball Classic, guiding the Asian team to its third WBC triumph. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder was imperious throughout the tournament as Japan beat every opponent en route to the title.

Nootbaar’s mother, Kumiko, told The Japan Times that she hoped Nootbaar would lead Japan to victory; her hopes came true. “It would be amazing if he can win it all and toss skipper Kuriyama in the air,” Kumiko said. 

This piece looks at Lars Nootbaar’s parents, explaining why the American played for Japan and not the USA. 

Lars Nootbaar’s father is of European descent, and his mother is Japanese

Lars Nootbaar was born on 8th September 1997 in El Segundo, California, to Charlie Nootbaar and Kumiko Enokida. Charlie is of German, English, and Dutch descent; Kumiko is Japanese. 

Charlie, the grandson of businessman and philanthropist Herbert Nootbaar, met Kumiko at Cal Poly SLO. Kumiko, in the United States on an exchange program, returned to Japan before establishing a relationship with Charlie. Fate ultimately brought the couple together. 

Charlie was due to live with a host family as he furthered his studies in Japan. However, the host family dropped out, forcing Charlie to contact Kumiko. As Kumiko’s family hosted Charlie, the couple started dating. “They’ve been together ever since,” Nootbaar told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It was kind of sink-or-swim for my dad.”

The WBC’s rules allow players to play for a nation if their parent or grandparent was born in that nation. Thus, despite Nootbaar’s American citizenship, the WBC cleared him to play for Japan. He is the first non-Japanese citizen to play for the team.

Nootbaar talked to The Japan Times about his experience playing for Japan: “To be able to represent Japan out here, to be in the Tokyo Dome for the first time ever representing Japan, pretty surreal experience. It still hasn’t really hit me yet, you know, but it’s pretty awesome.”

Nootbaar told the outlet that he felt obliged to learn Japanese. “I keep telling them [his teammates] that I’ve got to speak Japanese, I’m in their country,” he said. “So I gotta do that, but it’s been awesome.” Nootbaar told the Associated Press that his Japanese relatives are proud of his decision to play for the Samurai:

“It’s cool for me too to be able to do that for them. I don’t get to talk to them very often, to see them very often. To be able to connect me and my family together from opposite sides of the world. It’s a pretty special moment for me.”