Japanese Ace Pitcher Rocky Sasaki Impresses Fans in Practice Game Against Lotte Giants: Recap and Reactions

2024-02-25 09:31:49

On the 25th, Nishizaki Baseball Stadium in Itoman City, Okanawa, Japan, was filled with Korean and Japanese baseball fans despite the chilly weather with strong winds and drizzle. It is the day when the Lotte Giants of the Korean professional baseball team, which have the same parent company, and the Chiba Lotte of the Japanese professional baseball team played the second game of the spring camp practice game. More than twice as many spectators visited the baseball stadium as the first game the previous day. This is because it was the day when Loki Sasaki (23), a star pitcher representing the Japanese league, took the mound. Fans crowded around the stadium entrance to get his autograph before and after the game.

Chiba Lotte Sasaki Rocky is fighting in the second game of an exchange match against Lotte Giants held at Nishizaki Stadium in Okinawa, Japan on the afternoon of the 25th. /News 1

Sasaki has been a hot topic since his high school days with a fastball exceeding 163 km/h. In 2019, he was selected as the first pick in the rookie draft and joined Chiba Lotte. He entered the first team stage in 2021 and left numerous records, including recording his highest speed of 165 km/h. He set the record for most strikeouts in one game in the Japanese league (19) and the world record for striking out batters in one consecutive game (13 batters). In April 2022, he achieved a perfect game. In Japan, he is considered the number one candidate to advance to MLB (American Professional Baseball), following Shohei Otani (30) and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (26, LA Dodgers). He also helped Japan win the WBC (World Baseball Classic) in March last year. Even though it was not a regular league game, fans from both Korea and Japan gathered in Okinawa to see him.

Graphics = Chosun Design Lab Kwon Hye-in

It is said that the reason why Chiba Lotte and Korea Lotte held a practice game was due to the will and support of Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin, the owner of both teams. The two teams held joint training on the 22nd, played the first practice game on the 24th, and then played the second game on this day. It is the first time in 17 years since 2007 that the two teams have competed in an exchange match, and the first time they have even held joint training. In particular, the second game attracted attention due to the ace match between Sasaki and Lotte Park Se-woong (28).

Sasaki appeared as a starter that day and pitched one inning. The original plan was to pitch two innings, but due to the chilly weather, he did not overdo it. He recorded a speed of 154 km/h from the first pitch he threw to Lotte’s No. 1 hitter Kim Min-seok (20). Although he was not in 100% condition as he was in the midst of improving his physical condition, he continued to throw fastballs, which are rarely seen in Korean professional baseball. He threw 10 fastballs that day, with a maximum speed of 155 km/h and a minimum speed of 152 km/h. He also threw three forkballs at a top speed of 139 km/h.

The only flaw was that second batter Yoon Dong-hee (21) hit a double. Dong-hee Yoon caught Sasaki’s third fastball and sent it deep into the left outfield. Park Se-woong gave up 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning, then hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd inning, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings. Chiba Lotte won the game 8 to 1. Following the first game (7 to 3), they won both games. Lotte only scored one point in the top of the second inning thanks to a solo shot by Han Dong-hee (25).

A practice game between Lotte Giants and Chiba Lotte was held at Nishizaki Baseball Stadium in Itoman City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan on the 25th. Lotte Yoon Dong-hee is celebrating after hitting a double in the top of the first inning. /yunhap news

Although it was a short appearance, Sasaki left a strong impression on the Lotte team. Dong-hee Yoon said, “I have hit a ball at 150 km/h before, but the Sasaki ball is different. He said, “This is the first time I have felt it,” and “It feels like the tip of the ball is more alive, and the ball comes back with more force and kicks back.” Lotte pitcher Choi Jun-yong said, “Sasaki went 155 km even though it seemed like he only used about 30% of his strength. “I want to throw like that,” he said. Jeon Mir, who led his alma mater Gyeongbuk High School to the Blue Dragon High School Baseball Championship last year and was selected by Lotte in the first round of the rookie draft, said, “I have good physical balance. “I saw Sasaki running, and he had really good elasticity,” he said. “But since he was the same person, I was motivated that I could do the same if I worked harder.” Lotte coach Kim Tae-hyung said, “I only saw it for a moment, but the ball itself is really strong.” He added, “Because the fastball is fast, the forkball is that much more powerful.”

On this day, Sasaki avoided contact with the media as much as possible. He restricted access to Korean reporters and exchanged brief questions and answers only with Japanese reporters. He said, “I checked what I could do and what I couldn’t,” and “It wasn’t as bad as I thought.” “It was good that I tried not to be nervous,” he said. He commented on Park Se-woong, whom he faced off against as the starting pitcher, “It is impressive that he competed with a fastball from the beginning.”

Meanwhile, Ryu Hyun-jin (37), who returned after signing an eight-year contract worth 17 billion won with Hanwha, took a day off after pitching a bullpen on the 23rd and started training for the second time that day. He participated in defense training with the pitcher team. He practiced handling ground balls in front of the pitcher and covering first base. He was consistently bright, joking around with his teammates, and even took his training seriously, catching after-balls that veered too far to the side. He said, “In the United States, we warmed up individually, but it was noisy and fun to train as a group for the first time in a long time.”

Ryu Hyun-jin is training at the Hanwha Eagles’ second spring camp held at Gochinda Stadium in Okinawa, Japan on the morning of the 25th. /News 1

Hanwha coach Choi Won-ho announced on this day, “I will use Ryu Hyun-jin as the starter in the opening game of the regular season.” Hanwha will play its opening match against LG in Jamsil on March 23. Coach Choi said, “I think we need to manage the number of pitches for the time being. “The number of pitches in the opening game will be around 80,” he said.

#Okinawa #warms #appearance #Japans #nextgeneration #ace #Sasaki #kmh

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