Reversing an earlier decision, Japanese pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka, who set a world record after pitching 30 straight wins without a loss this year, will come to Taiwan to participate in the Asia Series competition.
“I have decided to include Tanaka in the team roster for the Asia Series in Taiwan, because this is what the Taiwanese baseball community expects. Tanaka himself also said he would like to come with the team to Taiwan,” Tanaka’s manager, Senichi Hoshino, told Japanese newspapers Sports Hochi and Sponichi Annex yesterday.
“The main reason is to thank Taiwanese for their tremendous assistance and contribution to Japan’s Tohuko earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011,” said the manager for the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles, who are based in Sendai City.
“I told Tanaka that I must bring him to Taiwan, because he is very well-known there, and many Taiwanese fans want to see him,” Hoshino added.
The news that he was coming was greeted with great enthusiasm by Taiwanese baseball fans.
According to media reports, the change of mind was due to energetic persuasion by Kenji Kaku (郭源治) and Lu Ming-tsu (呂明賜), two retired Taiwanese baseball players who won renown playing in Japan, and who are friends of Hoshino.
The Tohoku Rakuten Eagles won the Japan Series in the deciding Game 7, with Tanaka on the mound for the final strikeout against the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated Sendai City and the surrounding Tohoku region, so the Eagles winning the championship led to joyous celebrations, boosting the spirits of area residents still recovering from the disaster.
As title winners, the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles will represent Japan at the Asia Series baseball club championship competition, which is hosted by Taiwan this year and runs from Friday to Nov. 20.
Media in Taiwan and Japan had reported on Monday that Hoshino had given Tanaka time off to rest, and that he would not come to Taiwan.
That came as a huge disappointment to Taiwanese fans. The announcement by Hoshino yesterday was a boon to Taiwan’s media and organizers, with enthusiastic fans discussing buying tickets, eager to watch Tanaka in action.
The 25-year-old free agent will be the most expensive Japanese player to visit Taiwan, as his Rakuten Eagles are asking US$100 million from US major league teams to negotiate a contract with him.