Chiba Lotte Marines Fireballer pitcher Roki Sasaki (22) has revealed a connection with his idol.
Sasaki met Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, 35, at the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Game on 19-20 July, and the two players, who are 13 years apart in age, wore the same Pacific League All-Star jerseys and spoke highly of each other during a joint interview hosted by TV Asahi.
Tanaka, a 195-win Japanese-American pitcher who began playing for Rakuten in 2007 and won 78 games for the New York Yankees from 2014-2020 before returning to Rakuten in 2021, said of Sasaki, who holds the Nippon Professional Baseball record for fastest fastball (165 kilometres per hour), “It’s really scary. He’s still young, and I think it’s just the beginning, so I’m very excited.”
Sasaki added: “Tanaka-senpai was a player I looked up to when I was younger and started watching baseball. I still have a Rakuten jersey with his number 18 on it hanging at home,” Sasaki said, revealing his fandom. Tanaka was stunned and said, “Really. Thank you.”
Sasaki then talked about the third game of the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Game, which was held on 23 July 2012 in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. A native of Iwate, Sasaki has painful memories of losing his father in the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. More than 2,400 children affected by the earthquake were invited to the All-Star Game, and Sasaki was one of them. Tanaka was the Pacific League starter that day.
“I was watching from the outfield stands, and the throwing and pitching was amazing, and the sense of determination was really cool. I also participated in a baseball class event in Sendai City in January 2013.” In addition to Tanaka, other Japanese stars such as Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants) and Genta Maeda (Minnesota Twins) participated in the class.온라인카지노
“I’m really surprised,” Tanaka said, “I just found out about it for the first time.” Sasaki mentioned Tanaka’s name as a role model when he joined Chiba Lotte. When Sasaki said, “I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player after seeing Tanaka’s 24-game winning streak that led to the 2013 Rakuten title,” Tanaka replied, “Actually, I lost once in the Japan Series. I’m sorry (laughs),” he said, and thanked him profusely.
Sasaki said, “I haven’t pitched a full inning yet. I’d like to hear the secret of how you can throw for a long time,” Sasaki replied, “You just have to keep throwing and feel different things and grow. Lately, I feel like my velocity has decreased and I feel more stable. It’s great that you keep improving,” encouraged Sasaki.
The two players ended the interview with a handshake, wishing each other a healthy season. The relationship between the new and old Nippon Professional Baseball aces has been going on for a long time and is likely to continue for a long time to come.