Shohei Otani: The High Schooler Who Made the Record as Japan’s Fastest Pitcher
Any person with a working hand can throw a ball and be considered as a baseball player. But to throw a ball at a speed faster than what is considered average, that is something not everyone could do—most especially among high schoolers.
Making a record as Japan’s fastest pitcher at 102.5 mph, only one person in the land of the rising sun is capable of this feat—the then high schooler-now-professional-baseball-player, Shohei Otani.
The record was previously held by Yakult Swallow’s Yoshinori Sato who, by 2010, made a throwing speed of 100 mph.
Otani’s discovery, however, was no mere accidental. As one who officially plays for a team in high school, the fastest pitcher was originally timed at 99 mph while playing in a Prefecture Tournament, Summer Koshien.
As it appears, despite having a fast pitcher as an asset to the team, having someone throw a ball faster than common does not guarantee winnings and was something that was made true as Otani’s team lost the said competition in the semi-finals.
While most Japanese who are into baseball and are considering of pursuing a career in it would choose to play for the Nippon Professional Baseball, Shohei Otani was known to aim for the Major League Baseball in the US.
For his skill and the known interest to go abroad to jumpstart his professional career, Shohei has attracted the attention of many MLB teams, namely the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers.
Yet, as the NPB itself is not without its desire to make Otani stay and play locally in his home country, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters drafted Shohei Otani nonetheless hoping to change his initial decision to fly to the US for the MLB.
After a month-long negotiation, Otani agreed to play for the Fighters which started his debut in professional baseball starting 2013, then aged 18. Shohei Otani was assigned the jersey no. 11, the same number previously worn by Yu Darvish.
With fast throws as their common feature, Otani is often rivaled against fellow pitching prodigy Shintaro Fujinami of the Hanshin Tigers whom, at one point, played against back one another in 2012’s Spring Koshien.
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