As a baseball player, I really want to challenge the world and be at a top level as a baseball player. It’s not easy when you reach the age of 30 or so, so I want to do it while I’m still young.
On September 28, after the Yakult game at Jingu Stadium, Shintaro Fujinami, 28, of the Hanshin team, told the press that he would challenge the Majors through the posting system. He spoke of his longing to reach the majors.
“I’ve had this feeling for a long time,” Fujinami said. I have been talking with the team about the possibility of taking up the challenge.”
Fujinami’s desire to play in the majors has been his goal for a long time. He has been training with a number of major leaguers, including Kenta Maeda of the Twins in January 2015, Yu Darvish of the Padres and Cy Young winner Kershaw of the Dodgers in January 2018
Especially this year, the success of my peers Shohei Ohtani (Angels) and Seiya Suzuki (Cubs) seemed to inspire me. I hear news about them every day, even if I don’t like it. I also heard from Shohei Ohno of judo, who won two consecutive Olympic titles, and Yutaka Take of horse racing, who I have been in contact with, that there are more amazing athletes in the world, and I heard that they have influenced him.
What does it take to be a successful pitcher in the majors?
Fujinami’s performance in recent years, however, is not what one would call a major league caliber. Although he had three consecutive years of double-digit win totals since turning pro in 2013, he has failed to make a splash since then. He did not win a game in 19 years due to poor control of his pitches, and his usage as a reliever or starter has been inconsistent. Even so, sports journalist Nachi Tomonari says, “The major leagues do not have a bad reputation.”
“The conditions for a successful pitcher in the majors are a high fastball and a low split. Hideo Nomo, Masahiro Sasaki, Masahiro Tanaka, and others were successful because they had these two types of pitches. Fujinami also has a fastball with a maximum velocity of 162 km/h and a split of nearly 150 km/h. He is a pitcher suited for the majors.
Certainly, poor control of his pitches is a negative factor. It is difficult to pitch more than five innings as a starter in the Majors, where there is a 100-pitch limit because of the high pitch count due to four pitches. I think he will be given a role as a long reliever who pitches across innings.”
“Which team is likely to make a move to acquire him?” Tomonari continues.
“The Padres are the most likely. Both of them have been successful in the major leagues. As relievers from the same Hanshin team, it would not be surprising if they are interested in Fujinami.
Other possible candidates would be the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Rangers. All of these teams have a track record of successful relief pitchers who have been on Japanese teams. For the Red Sox, it is Koji Uehara, Hideki Okajima, and Takuichi Sawamura. With the Diamondbacks, it was Yoshihisa Hirano. With the Rangers, it was Burnett, who was the guardian god of Yakult.”
Fujinami is surprisingly highly regarded. If Hanshin accepts Fujinami’s challenge to the Majors, it is likely that several teams will compete for his services.