Akinori Sasaki’s “Shoes” presented to Lotte’s backstage staff just before the WBC: “I felt their determination to carry the load. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Akinori Sasaki’s “Shoes” presented to Lotte’s backstage staff just before the WBC: “I felt their determination to carry the load.

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Akinori Sasaki started for the Czech Republic on March 11 (Photo: AFLO)

Akinori Sasaki, a pitcher for Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) team, became the talk of the town when he apologized to an opposing player for giving him a dead ball by offering him sweets. Before he joined the Samurai Japan team, he had actually given Nike shoes to all the backstage staff of the Chiba Lotte Marine’s first and second teams at their camp.

On the 13th, a day of rest after being hit by a 162 kg straight ball to the left knee of infielder Willy Eskara in the third round of the WBC against the Czech Republic on the 11th, Sasaki gave Eskara a large quantity of Lotte snacks, including “Koala’s March” and “Pie Nuts” as gifts. The other Czech national team manager praised his character. A Chiba Lotte Marine’s team official revealed, “I think it was right around the time the camp started.

I think it was at the beginning of the camp, but Aki (Sasaki) gave me a pair of Nike shoes through the staff. Of course I was happy, but at the same time I thought it was great. For example, I understand giving a gift to someone who gives you a massage or does something directly for you. But it’s all the people behind the scenes in the first and second teams. He is only 21 years old, but I felt his determination to carry the team on his back this year.

Last season, in his third year as a professional, Sasaki suddenly pitched a perfect game in April, fulfilling the potential that had been expected of him and winning nine games. He was also selected for the Samurai Japan team last fall. Last season, his third year as a professional, his annual salary was also increased significantly from 30 million yen to 80 million yen (both estimates).

In many cases, the increase in salary is not a reward for playing for themselves, but rather it makes them more aware of the need to improve as players,” said a source close to the baseball team.

There are about 50 backstage workers for the first and second teams combined. The price of the shoes is not known, but even if each pair cost 10,000 yen, the cost would be 500,000 yen, and if 20,000 yen, the cost would be 1 million yen.

Even if we had the money, it would not be easy to do this. Before the spread of the new coronavirus, the main players would go out to eat together to show their appreciation to the people behind the scenes, but in this day and age, that is not possible. So I think this is his way of showing his gratitude and his wish for a happy new year. It makes me feel that I want to do something for Akinori, too.

He lost his family in the Great East Japan Earthquake, so I think he is keenly aware of the fact that he cannot live by himself.

Masahiro Tanaka gave a pair of sports sunglasses to a backstage staff member.

According to other sources in the baseball world, Masahiro Tanaka gave sports sunglasses to all the backstage workers when he was with Rakuten before he left for the majors. The source continued, “In Ma-kun’s case, he was a rookie.

In Ma-kun’s case, he had been a member of the starting rotation since his rookie year, and I remember that I gave him a pair of sunglasses in his fifth year in 2011, when he won 19 games, his best at the time.

By the time Ma-kun turned 23, he had represented Japan in the WBC and had experienced the world’s number one team, and he was seen as the ace of Japanese baseball as well as the team. His actions must have been born from that awareness. No matter what situation you pitch in or which team you pitch for, you are expected to win, and you cannot pitch in a hapless manner. In a sense, an ace is lonely. Even so, I think he showed his feelings in his own way to the people behind the scenes who support him.

There are people behind the scenes who support you before you take the mound, and when you pitch, you have eight fielders protecting you, so you can get outs. And you can only play a game when you have an opponent. With this kind of feeling, Sasaki’s next appearance is expected to be in the semifinals on the 21st (Japan time) in the United States. Whether it is Samurai Japan or the Chiba Lotte Marines, once he takes the mound, he pitches with the team on his shoulders, and at 21 years of age, Sasaki has begun his ascent to the ace of the baseball world.

Sasaki smiles with relief when Escala visits him (photo from official Twitter).
Sasaki visited the Czech team’s dormitory to apologize to Eskara for giving him a dead ball, and offered him a large amount of sweets. Eskara asked him for his autograph (photo from Czech Baseball Association Twitter).
Two shots of Akinori Sasaki of Samurai Japan and Eskara (from the official Twitter feed of the Czech Baseball Association).

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