Even With a Surprise Transfer, Rakuten says about Okoye: “Why Our Words and Deeds Should Be Positive” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Even With a Surprise Transfer, Rakuten says about Okoye: “Why Our Words and Deeds Should Be Positive”

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Okoye’s eccentric hairstyle was also a topic of conversation. (Image: Jiji Press)

What is the “Koshien hero” doing now?

He is Rui Okoye, 24, who was drafted first overall by Rakuten in 2016 out of Kanto I High School (Tokyo). He has a strong shoulder with a long throw of 120m, visual acuity of over 2.0, a 50m run of 5.96 seconds, and a swing speed of 157km. His physical abilities are well recognized by all, but he has not had a satisfactory season since joining the pro ranks. He has made no appearances for the first team so far this season.


“Last season, he was promoted to the first team for the first time in two years, but he allowed all the runners to reach base with the bases loaded due to a sloppy play against Softbank in October. He was demoted to the second team again, much to the displeasure of GM and manager Kazuhisa Ishii. The reason for his slump was his mentality. Every year, he affirms himself that he is growing too well, but when he receives comments from his coaches and manager, he becomes frustrated. His feelings are not consistent.

In the “Asian Winter League” held in Taiwan in the off-season of 2016, he returned home because of “wisdom tooth pain”. In the following year’s Winter League in Mexico, when he struck out three batters in a row in his first game and had to be replaced, he returned to Japan earlier than planned, saying, “Everything was different than I expected.” The leadership is hoping that he will be more patient and concentrate on baseball,” said a source close to the team.

Ishii made the following complaint immediately after Okoye renewed his contract at the end of 2020: “He thinks too much.”

“He is not thinking straight. If he doesn’t come out of it soon, his own baseball career will suffer. This is the critical point. I feel that his self-esteem is a little high. He needs to be humbler. You can’t just give him a chance and say, “Here you go.”

A coach who appreciates Okoye’s leg strength

Okoye in high school. He was a big hit at the Koshien Stadium with his quick feet and good defense (Image: Afro).

Okoye’s main outfielders at Rakuten include Hiroaki Shimauchi, Ryosuke Tatsumi, and Haruki Nishikawa, who moved from Nippon Ham, so it will not be easy for Okoye to fulfill his position. Even so, Okoye does not seem to feel a sense of difficulty.

“He reflects on his mistakes immediately after they are made, but he is somewhat lenient. Even though he trains hard during the allotted practice time, he rarely stays over and leaves the field. I guess he thinks too dryly. I don’t think he has that much time to spare.”


This is his sixth year with the team. Okoye, who has been inactive, is also rumored to be transferring to an unexpected team.

“One of the themes of manager Miura is ‘running’ baseball. Last season, DeNA had 31 stolen bases, the worst among the 12 teams. The current DeNA outfield is better equipped than Rakuten’s, but there are few players who can run. For Miura, Okoye’s outstanding leg strength must be attractive. It would not be surprising if he moves to acquire him for his leg strength.

On the other hand, there are those who say, “At least there will be no trade during this season. He will be safe for a while.”

“Okoye is a favorite of Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. Mr. Mikitani likes unconventional players like Okoye. He wants to make him a star of Rakuten because he is well known for his success at Koshien.

Manager Ishii is no different in that he wants to do something to develop Okoye into a core player for the future. He is often harsh, but it is not that he hates him. I think his harsh words are a whip of love and a sign of his high expectations.”

Okoye is batting in the high .300 range for the second team this season. There is a strong possibility that he will return to the first team before the summer starts in earnest. Whether or not he can live up to the expectations of the leaders this time around will be a true test of his value.

  • Photo: Jiji Press Jiji Press

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