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

However, any Japanese high school baseball looking to emulate the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder in their own games will not be able to do so. A player from Tohoku High School twisted his hands in a movement similar to Nootbaar’s, and was told by the referee to stop.

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A Tohoku High School player gestures after reaching first base during their match against Yamanashi Gakuin High School at a stadium in Nishinomiya, Osaka, western Japan, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (Kyodo News via AP)

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 that the whole nation is talking about it,» Sato told Japanese media. «Kids just have fun. Why do adults have to stop it?

«We should think more about how children can freely enjoy baseball.»

The Japan High School Baseball Federation also commented on the celebration.

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

Fans of the team gesture as Team Japan scored against Italy in the World Baseball Classic, at a sports bar in Tokyo, Thursday, March 16, 2023. (Kyodo News via AP)

«We have always called on high school baseball to refrain from unnecessary performances and gestures. We understand players’ feelings of wanting to have fun, but the federation believes that fun should come from the game,» the organization said.

Nootbaar’s pepper mill celebration was a hit in Japan’s five games at Tokyo Dome, and cameras often caught Nootbaar’s teammates doing the gesture as well.

Lars Nootbaar of Team Japan gestures during a match against Australia on March 12, 2023, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo.  Nootbaar's pepper mill gesture is catching on all over Japan.

Lars Nootbaar of Team Japan gestures during a match against Australia on March 12, 2023, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Nootbaar’s pepper mill gesture is catching on all over Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

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

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

Associated Press contributed to this report.