How Mr. Baseball Became a Go-To for Players Headed to Japan
Konichiwa, Japan, June 29, 2017 — The New York Mets are sending players to a faraway land on their scouting trips. So is Kiyoshi Tamura, who will bring his family to an isolated town in western Japan for three days of play. For Tamura, who will eventually move to a baseball tournament in a city 1,000 miles away from New York City, it is something of a homecoming.
Tamura began his scouting career in the U.S. as a 21-year-old rookie with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers asked him to become an extra outfielder when their star outfielder Josh Hamilton was hurt. Tamura had never even seen the game before.
“I’m not really an athlete, so I didn’t know anything about baseball back home,” said Tamura, 22. “The manager took me to batting cages. I was like, ‘I’m not going to play in those,’ but they said I have to train there. That was the first time I saw a baseball game. A couple of weeks later, I was moved to the infield.”
Tamura’s rise has been swift. He has been signed to play in Japan, the largest team in the international league he plays for, in the last month. He is hoping to play in the Major League Baseball Japan League, the first-ever professional league of independent Japanese professional baseball teams, beginning in January in Tokyo.
Tamura was taken with the Mets’ interest.
“It was an easy decision to become a part of the Mets’ system,” he said. “Even though I’m from Japan and my parents are Japanese, I’ve always felt like Mets fans are American. And when I was told I was going to Japan, I felt like a good fit.”
The Japan International League team, the Yokohama