Okoye of Rakuten’s First Promotion this Season — Will He be Traded after this Season? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Okoye of Rakuten’s First Promotion this Season — Will He be Traded after this Season?

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Okoye is welcomed by starter Masahiro Tanaka and others after coming back alive in a game against Lotte on August 20 (Image: Kyodo News)

I’m glad I worked so hard. It is my strength, so I ran so that I could be safe at the last-minute.

Rui Okoye, 25, of the Rakuten baseball team, who made his first appearance of the season on August 20 against Lotte, spoke to the press after the game. He gave up a hit to left in the third inning. When the Lotte pitcher threw a wild pitch, he stole second base, and the next batter hit a ball to center field to bring him home. He used his undeniable speed to score the fifth run of the game.

Okoye had been hitting over .300 with the second team, so what was the reason for the delay in his promotion to the first team?

He had been getting over 30 percent of the runs in the second inning, but what was the reason for his delay in moving up to the first team? It was not easy for Okoye to break in. However, Nishikawa had a bad day and was demoted to the second team. Tatsumi contracted a new type of coronavirus, and his promotion to the second team was decided by a fluke.

It seems that the reason he was languishing in the second team was due in part to himself.

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

Wisdom toothache and return to Japan

Okoye was drafted by Rakuten in 2016 out of Kanto I High School (Tokyo). He has a strong shoulder with a long throw of 120 m, eyesight of over 2.0, a 50-meter run of 5.96 seconds, and a swing speed of 157 km/h. His physical abilities are well known to everyone. However, he has not had a satisfactory season since joining the pro ranks.

He says, “I have an uneven feeling. Every year, I affirm myself that I’m growing too well, but when I receive attention from coaches and managers, I get frustrated.”

In the “Asian Winter League” held in Taiwan in the off-season of 2016, he returned home because of  his wisdom tooth. In the following year’s Winter League in Mexico, when he struck out three batters in a row in the first game and was replaced, he returned to Japan, saying, “Everything was different from what I expected. The leaders are hoping that he will be more patient and concentrate on baseball.”

Manager Kazuhisa Ishii complained immediately after Okoye’s contract renewal at the end of 2020.

He is not thinking straight. If he doesn’t come out 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 peel off his skin. I can’t just give him a chance and say, ‘Here you go.’

This is the first time this season that he has been promoted to the first team, but it does not look like he can rest easy just yet.

Okoye, who wowed the Koshien Stadium as an athletic high school player, is now in his sixth year as a professional baseball player. If he fails to produce results this season, there is a possibility that he will be traded as an asset that the team does not need. There is no room for complacency. This is his last chance to be promoted to the first team. If he doesn’t make the most of this opportunity, he won’t have a bright future ahead of him.

Whether he can use his appearance in the first team as a chance to make a leap forward or whether it will end up being a waste of time is up to Okoye’s determination.

  • Photo Kyodo News

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