Otani, Darvish, Murakami, Sasaki… The season is about to begin! Samurai Japan’s “Star Squad” in the “Treasured Photo Album” is now on view! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Otani, Darvish, Murakami, Sasaki… The season is about to begin! Samurai Japan’s “Star Squad” in the “Treasured Photo Album” is now on view!

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Shohei Ohtani, 28, Los Angeles Angels

Shohei Ohtani shows his dominant hand to the camera at a pep rally for the Japanese high school team in August ’12. He recorded a pitch speed of 156 km/h during team practice on the 23rd of last month. As of the pre-game stage, this is his best finish in six years in the majors.
In ’13, he was spotted shopping at a convenience store. He bought only one stick of ice cream.

The Samurai Japan team is showing steady improvement in preparation for the World Baseball Classic (WBC), which opens on March 8. The team won back-to-back games against Softbank in a send-off match at the end of February, giving them a boost heading into the tournament.

The team’s pitching and hitting abilities are among the best in history. The atmosphere is good, with Yu Darvish (36), the oldest and mainstay of the team, actively talking to the younger players. The team as a whole is improving, with Akinori Sasaki (21) pitching well in a send-off game, using a slider that Dar taught him how to grip directly.

This magazine has witnessed rare glimpses of the greatest nine players of all time outside the ballpark. Shohei Ohtani (28), the Major League MVP man, responded to an interview with a fresh look on his face in high school. Nowadays, he wears a rare rounded head and revealed his private life, saying, “Actually, I have a sweet tooth. Main gun Munetaka Murakami (23) found himself dining with acquaintances. Perhaps celebrating his 50th homerun, which would put him on par with Gojira Matsui, the party went on until 2:00 am.

Other people caught Masanao Yoshida (29) showing off his muscular muscles, and Tetsuto Yamada (30) at a party with beautiful women. Knowing these star players in all their go-getter glory should make the WBC even more enjoyable.

Yu Darvish (36), San Diego Padres

In 2001, as a third-year junior high school student, he stood 192 cm tall. He was already throwing a fastball in the 140 km/h range. Now, as a veteran player, he has become a key player on the team, both in name and reality. In camp, he actively communicates with younger players and takes the initiative in leading the team by giving up his days off to practice.
In the spring of 2004, when he was a student at Tohoku High School, he was seen in the bathroom of his dormitory. He responded to the camera with a gut-punch.

Akinori Sasaki (21), Chiba Lotte Marines

Sasaki stood 190 cm tall in high school, a head and shoulders above the rest of the ballplayers. He pitched an impressive game against SoftBank, recording a top speed of 162 km/h. He showed a steady improvement, allowing only one hit and no runs in two innings of work.

Hiroki Matsui (27), Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

Matsui was interviewed by this magazine in 2005. He was the youngest player in Japan’s national team to participate in the WBC that year.

Tase (23), Yomiuri Giants

The pledge of allegiance at a youth baseball club (top) and at Nishiwaki Technical High School (bottom). His big mouth has remained strong since then.

Hotaka Yamakawa (31), Saitama Seibu Lions

Yamakawa showed off his calligraphy skills, which he says he is an 8th dan calligrapher. In 2006, the year we interviewed him, he became the first player in his career to win the homerun championship. He has continued to develop his career steadily, becoming one of the best hitters in baseball, and was selected for the WBC for the first time, which he had longed for.

Takuya Kai (30), Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

I interviewed him in the off-season of 2006. He happily talked about how Molina of the Cardinals, whom he admired, praised his delivery of pitches.

Kensuke Kondo (29), Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Kondo showed off his big mouth in the interview five years ago. He showed off his big mouth in the game against SoftBank, going 4 for 4 with a .100 batting average.

Tetsuto Yamada (30) Tokyo Yakult Swallows

Mr. Triple Three is
He was on top of his game in the night doubleheader!

In 2003, we found Yamada enjoying a blind date with some beautiful women in Aoyama. It was 1:30 a.m. when the party broke up. He became the first player in history to hit the “triple-three” three times and was named MVP at the Tokyo Olympics, where he won the gold medal. Expectations are high for his competitive spirit this time as well.

Munetaka Murakami (23), Tokyo Yakult Swallows

On the night he hit 50 homers, tying Matsui
Gokai celebrated with acquaintances until late at night!

Last October, on the night he hit his memorable 50th home run, “Murakami” held a dinner party with his friends in Tokyo. Although he was hitless in both games against Softbank, he played well defensively. He is expected to get back on track in terms of hitting in the next four practice games.

Masanao Yoshida (29) Boston Red Sox

Strong body trained by Murofushi-style training.
A little cannonball who surprised even the majors is challenging to be the best in the world.

Masanao Yoshida was in his second year with the Orix when we interviewed him. Yoshida has been training under Koji Murofushi (48), whom he admires, doing as many as 20 different types of muscle training, and has developed a body of steel. When he moved to the Red Sox this offseason, he surprised the team leaders with his power, scoring a run in his debut in a game.

From the March 17, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Tomonori Iwanami, Ryoji Shigemasa, Haruki Shimokoshi, Takahiro Kagawa, Takashi Kurosawa, Hiroyuki Komatsu, Ichiro Takatsuka, Shiro Terauchi

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