“To be honest, I feel the biggest sense of ‘why’ about this. But I am very happy and grateful that the fans voted for me.”
On July 6, the final results of the All-Star fan voting were announced, and Sho Nakata of the Giants (33), who was selected in the first base category in the Central League, beamed as he told the press, “I’m very happy. Nakata was the overwhelming favorite, with nearly 80,000 votes ahead of the second-place finisher, Hiroshima McBroom.”
Nakata is understandably modest. Nakata has hit nine home runs this season, but his batting average has been in the low 20s, and he has been used more and more as a substitute hitter after being dropped twice (as of July 12). He has been used more and more as a substitute batter (as of July 12).
He was expected to be a center fielder after transferring from Nippon-Ham, but his performance last year was also unsatisfactory with a .154 batting average and three home runs. He has not earned the trust of manager Tatsunori Hara, who prefers players who consistently produce at a high rate. Nakata, who improves his game by playing in every game, must be in a difficult position.
Nevertheless, the fact that Nakata was selected first in the ballpark seems to have been strongly influenced by the sympathy of the fans.
In a July 10 game against DeNA, Nakata ran as fast as he could on a hit to left field. In a game against DeNA on July 10, he ran as fast as he could on a hit to left field and hit a ball to second base with a head slide. Fans know that Nakata is the type of player who always plays and gets better. Even if he doesn’t produce results, they like Nakata’s gutsy attitude.
Sakamoto and Okamoto …
Despite the warm reception from fans, there is no doubt that Nakata is in a difficult situation. The situation is likely to become even more difficult in the future.
Nakata has many rivals at first base, including Hiroyuki Nakajima and Takashi Masuda. In some cases, catcher Takuzo Oshiro will also be in the lineup. Next season, team leader Hayato Sakamoto is likely to join him.
Sakamoto, who turns 34 this year, has been out of the lineup due to back pain. There is talk of converting him to first base to reduce the burden on him. There is also a proposal to use Kazuma Okamoto at first base so that he can concentrate on hitting. Nakata’s opportunities may decrease even further.
(A reporter in charge of sports newspapers) “No matter how hard he tries, Nakata may not have many chances to play an active role in the heavily favored Giants’ lineup.
“The best thing for Nakata would be to return to Nichi-Ham. The fans will welcome him warmly, as evidenced by the loud cheering that occurred during the interchange games. There are a certain number of young players who adore Nakata. He will not feel at home there. Considering the fact that he was transferred after the assault incident, the chances of him coming back may be low.”
The All-Star season is the perfect opportunity for Nakata to show off his skills. Will he be able to make his presence felt at the banquet and regain his luster?
Photo: Jiji Press (courtesy of the Giants)： Jiji Press (courtesy of the Giants)