I wonder when he will go to the majors. I want to see him in the majors. I feel that Japan is enough for me now.”
These were the words of Kotaro Kiyomiya, 23, of Nippon Ham, who is participating in the team’s fall training camp, as he spoke to the press. I want to see him in the majors,” he said of fellow Yakult player Munetaka Murakami, who hit 56 homers, a Japanese record. Kiyomiya’s eyes lit up as he spoke of his record-breaking performance in his final at-bat of the season.
I thought, “I hit it. It was his last at-bat. He did it. He is an actor to be able to hit at a place like that.
While some were smiling at Kiyomiya’s congratulation for his colleague, others were more indifferent.
Kiyomiya respects Murakami, calling him “Mura-god,” not “Mura-god. However, he is somewhat of a stranger or ……. If it were a fan, it would be understandable, but he is a professional player and a rival of the same grade who is competing with him. It may be lip service to the press. However, it is also true that there are people who want him to feel frustrated because he was drafted No. 1 in the same draft.
Kiyomiya is somewhat calm because of his upbringing. Even when he is practicing hard, there is a laid-back atmosphere. Even when he makes mistakes, you can sometimes see him smiling. He says he is desperate, but I think he is relaxed about it,” said a baseball team official.
More convincing home runs.
Although he cannot be compared to Murakami, who won Reiwa’s first triple crown, this season Kiyomiya became the first player since he joined the pro ranks to reach the minimum number of at-bats. It is fair to say that he has finally established himself in the first team. However, his batting average was only .219 with 18 home runs. These are still not enough to be called a star player.
He has gained confidence by working reasonably well in the first team, and he will be able to grow even more next season. In a NTV sports program broadcast on October 8, he told former Giants manager Yoshinobu Takahashi, “When I was good this year, I was convinced that I was good enough. When I was good this year, I hit more home runs, which I was satisfied with. That part has changed a lot.
On the other hand, those around him see it differently. They are a little cold toward him, saying that he may have a strong sense of self-esteem. Manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo is probably not satisfied with this level of performance and would like him to lead the team with a more polished appearance. I think he wants him to be the new face of Nichi-Ham, which will move to a new stadium next season.
The real test will be next season.
Shinjo has been patiently using Kiyomiya this season. Even so, his performance has not improved, and he has often expressed his bitterness. He said, “I can only judge a player with a batting average below .220 after giving him so many chances,” and “Something has to be changed.
If the next season has similar results, Kiyomiya will be judged harshly. There is a possibility that he will not be considered as a competitive player and will be traded to another team. If it is Nichi-Ham, the team that has been “non-tender,” then it is not out of the question.
No matter how much he affirms himself, if he is not appreciated by those around him, he will not remain in the first team in the professional world. Kiyomiya has been working on his body during the off-season by strengthening and toning his muscles, and he plans to go into the next season as a “gorimacho” player.
Photo： Kyodo News