Many may have been surprised by the acquisition of Rakuten’s Rui Okoye (25) by the Giants in a closed-door “active draft” held on December 9.
Okoye and the Giants have a surprisingly close relationship. Okoye was selected as a member of the Giants Junior team when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school, and he also participated in the NPB Junior Tournament. He was previously a catcher, but switched to the outfield at the suggestion of the Giants Junior coaches, who were impressed with Okoye’s running ability and shoulders.
It also fits with the Giants’ reinforcement points. The only confirmed regulars in the outfield are Yoshihiro Maru and Walker. Masaya Hagio, the second overall pick in the draft from Keio University, new foreigner Brinson, Hisayoshi Nagano, transferred from Hiroshima, and Takayuki Kajitani, coming back from a training contract, are all candidates, but it remains to be seen if any of them can play. Manager Tatsunori Hara has high expectations for Okoye, saying that he thinks he is a strong player who can fill a need for reinforcements.
Okoye’s physical abilities are well known to everyone. He has a strong shoulder with a long throw of 120 meters, eyesight of over 2.0, a 50-meter run of 5.96 seconds, and a swing speed of 157 km ……. Rakuten, however, has an ironclad outfield. The team’s outfield is well rounded with Hiroaki Shimauchi, Haruki Nishikawa, and Ryosuke Tatsumi, and Okoye has not had much of a chance this season, appearing in only six games for the first team.
Okoye’s advantage of joining the Giants is not only the opportunity to play. The presence of Naohiro Suzuki as a base running specialist and outfield defense and base running coach is also a big advantage for Okoye. During his active career, Coach Suzuki’s base-running skills were among the best in baseball. With his guidance, Okoye’s speed will be further refined.
The Giants have a track record of revitalizing Sho Nakata, who had been thought to be lost after an assault incident in the past, by acquiring him from Nippon Ham. They must have confidence in Okoye’s awakening. I am sure that Okoye will play a role in the recovery of the team’s popularity, which has slumped to fourth place this season.
For the second year in a row, Okoye has purchased a luxury foreign car that costs more than his annual salary.
We cannot be too optimistic. This transfer is solely due to the “active draft,” in which players who had no chance to play an active role and were not recognized as a competitive force were considered as candidates. If the Giants really needed Okoye, they would have acquired him in a normal trade. Particularly worrisome is Okoye’s behavior with the “gentleman’s team” Giants.
The symbolic thing is his eccentric haircut. In 1919, Yosuke Hiraishi, then manager of the Rakuten Rakuten, warned him, ‘You’re going to be a bit of a joke at the camp-in camp. If you come to camp with a crazy haircut, I’ll cut your hair. Of course, the hairstyle is a personal choice, but the organization has its own culture and rules.
In 2005, he bought a BMW I8 sports car, which costs about 20 million yen. The following year, he bought a 15-million-yen luxury foreign car, a Maserati SVU Levante. When asked by the press who his target athlete is, he replied, “Usain Bolt,” but I can’t help but get the impression that he is a bit flirtatious,” said a reporter for a sports newspaper.
While affirming that he is “growing up too smoothly,” he has also been criticized for his attitude of being flippant when cautioned by coaches and managers. Rakuten manager Kazuhisa Ishii has often complained that he feels that he thinks too much and has a high self-esteem.
He has a mustache that runs from his cheeks to his mouth, a style that the Giants do not approve of. The level of attention he receives is also quite different from that of Rakuten. If he speaks out in an unrestrained manner, the media will immediately write about it and he may be criticized by his fans. I am worried that Okoye, who has a free and spontaneous personality, will feel suffocated by the Giants, who are highly disciplined and attract a lot of attention.
Okoye commented on his move to the Giants, “I will do my best to make a fresh start, so please continue to support me. Whether or not he will be able to play an active role depends on whether or not he can fundamentally change his mind as he said.
Photo： Kyodo News