Masanao Yoshida, Challenger to the Majors: His Thoughts on MLB as He Spoke at the Time of the Draft
In the SMBC Japan Series 2022, the Orix defeated the Yakult 4-2-1 to win their first Japan Series in 26 years. Masanao Yoshida (29), who has been leading the team as the main gunner, hit a solo home run, his first of the series, in the 5th game, and in the final inning, he hit his second home run of the day, a goodbye run to pull the series into the final game. The MVP of the series is Yuta Sugimoto. Although Yutaro Sugimoto (31) won the MVP of the series, he fulfilled his responsibility as the main gunner of the series.
The next day, the Orix’s first Japan championship in 26 years was celebrated on the front page of the sports paper, while an article titled Masanao Yoshida to make direct appeal for posting appeared.
Yoshida has had a strong yearning to play in the major leagues since he was a child when he started playing baseball, and he has publicly stated that his dream is to play in the majors. Certainly, having a small body is a big handicap, and Yoshida himself feels that the most. As a result of his rebellious spirit and refusal to give up, he has achieved all the goals he has set for himself so far. That is why he is more determined than ever to challenge the majors, the pinnacle of the sport, next. He is also one of the most theoretical people in baseball, so I think he has a solid reason to believe that now is the perfect time for him to make his decision.
In October 2015. In October 2015, Friday conducted an exclusive interview with Yoshida, who at the time was the No. 4 player on the Japanese national university team and one of the top draft picks that year. Here is what he had to say about his baseball theory and his thoughts on the majors.
As a baseball boy, I had to hit the ball far because my legs were not fast enough.
At the time, Yoshida was 173 cm tall and weighed 82 kg, well below the average for a professional baseball player. Even so, Yoshida continued to insist on making the ball fly far. The reason for this was.
If I had been faster on my feet, I would have been a player who could get a lot of hits,” he said. But I wasn’t fast. I started playing baseball in the first grade of elementary school, and I just swung the bat. I was just swinging the bat. Then, my father took me to a batting center, and the balls I hit started to fly farther and farther. I will never forget that feeling of joy. If you keep swinging the bat, you can actually feel the ball flying farther and farther, little by little. That was fun, and I found myself wanting to make the ball fly farther. My body was always small, but I knew that I could catch up if I built up my core in high school, so I wasn’t in any hurry at all.
In weight training and batting practice, he didn’t think he had to do more than the other players because of his small size.
I never thought that I had to do more weight training or batting practice than other players because of my small size. I have not been doing any special training for batting practice at all. What I am conscious of, however, is that my ideal is to be able to exert my 10 strengths at the moment of adjusting to the ball without wasting any energy, and I do this while trying all kinds of things. For example, I wonder what would happen if I put more force into hitting the ball from the beginning, or in the case of a breaking ball, I wonder how much it would fly if I put more force into the ball at such and such a time. I try to find my own range as I go along.
I might experiment with various things, such as the technique of impact or the timing of returning the wrist, and thoroughly try out what I think is the right one. I have been thoroughly doing what I thought was the right thing to do. You can’t tell just by swinging a bat. I think it’s a matter of thoroughly working on the important parts in stages, such as hitting the ball firmly while tee-batting and then free swinging afterward.
What is Yoshida’s ideal vision for the future?
I don’t want to be a home run hitter. I am not aiming to hit 30 runs with a 20% batting average, but to be a hitter with a 30% batting average who can maintain 20 runs at all times. If I get a good first pitch, I can hit it hard and make it a home run. I want to be the kind of hitter who, when he is cornered, does not take the same swing, but hits the pitcher’s winning shot and hits it back.
There are only a handful of hitters who can hit .300, so you have to be able to do that consistently, not just for a year, to become a player who can be active for a long time. Of course, I want to make it my goal from my first year to become a consistent player who can hit consistently.
Finally, when I asked him if he aspires to play in the majors in the future, he replied, “Of course, I have aspirations to play in the majors.
Of course, I have aspirations to play in the majors. I was allowed to go to the Texas Rangers camp this year, and the scale was too big. The speed of the ball. The speed of the bat swing. It was totally different. I was amazed at the impact, just like I felt when I was a child. I couldn’t do that now.”
As he declared, Yoshida hit .320 four times in the last five years. With a solid track record and confidence, Yoshida is now ready to face the majors.
PHOTO： Shinji Hamasaki (1st and 2nd photos) Jiji Press (3rd photo)