“The youngest eight years ago is now a superstar” Japanese juniors shine in Lee Dae-ho poem

May 29, 2023 0 Comments

Former teammates attended the ceremony to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Korea’s No. 4 batsman Lee Dae-ho (41).

Lee Dae-ho threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) 2023 Chiba Lotte home game at the PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, Japan, on Monday (28 June). He was invited by his former team, SoftBank, to throw out the winning pitch.

Initially, Lee was scheduled to deliver a ceremonial first pitch instead of a regular one. The ceremonial first pitch is usually delivered by a ball boy, not a catcher.

However, former teammates stepped up to the plate to welcome Lee to SoftBank after an eight-year absence. Japan’s signature batsman Yuki Yanagita, 35, batted, while outfielder Akira Nakamura, 34, donned a catcher’s mask and took the mound.안전놀이터

Lee played for SoftBank for two years in 2014 and 2015, leading the team to back-to-back integrated championships. In 2015, he became the first Korean to be named Most Valuable Player (MVP). In 285 games over two seasons with SoftBank, Lee batted .292 (314-for-1076) with 50 home runs, 166 RBIs, and 128 runs scored.

Yanagita and Nakamura were among the youngest players in the game at the time, when Lee and SoftBank were in the same boat. Now, as seniors, they have each gone on to become one of the top players in Japanese baseball. “When we played together, we were both the youngest in the team,” Lee laughed, “and when I saw them grow into superstars, I thought, ‘Wow, the years have passed,'” he said.

Nakamura is an outfielder, but he volunteered to play catcher for Dae-ho. “I’ve never played catcher before, so I’ll be lucky if I can catch the ball,” he said, smiling, “I’m very happy just to receive the ball from a super player, and it will be a good memory.”

When Lee saw Nakamura, he said, “He’s the hardest working player in SoftBank. He’s bound to do well even as he gets older,” he said, giving Nakamura a thumbs-up, adding, “There are many players in Korea who learn from his batting form.” Nakamura has appeared in 42 games this season, batting .288 (46-for-161) with two home runs, 14 runs scored and 12 RBIs.

“I was very happy to see Lee after eight years,” Nakamura said. He looks just like he used to,” Nakamura said. “When we played together, I felt very strong,” he said, adding, “I felt fortunate to have him as a teammate.” He recalled their time together.

Yanagita greeted Lee’s visit with a 90-degree bow. “He was a player who helped me a lot when I was young and growing up,” he said, expressing his admiration for Lee.

The previous day (27th), Lee Dae-ho watched the game from the stands and enthusiastically cheered on his former teammates. Yanagita, who went 3-for-6 with a home run, an RBI, and two runs scored, including the game-winning hit in the 12th inning of extra innings, drew a laugh when he said, “I got good energy from Dae-ho Lee,” and said “thank you” in Korean.

Last year, Lee ended his career with the second retirement tour in KBO history. At the time, Yanagita sent him a video letter to congratulate him on his retirement. “I was very happy when I was asked,” he said, “but I felt a little empty because a great player retired.”

Yanagita cited KBO League “hitting genius” Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom) as a role model. “I know about Lee Jung-hoo,” Yanagita said, “but you shouldn’t learn from me, you should learn from Lee Dae-ho,” he added.

In 42 games this season, Yanagita is batting .326 (49-for-151) with eight home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 runs scored. He is ranked first in batting average, second in home runs, third in RBIs, and fourth in runs scored. “My goal for this season is to have a batting average of 30% and more than 30 home runs,” he said.

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