An asteroid in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter has been named after Sadaharu Oh, the all-time home run king in professional Japanese baseball.
The Paris-based International Astronomical Union approved the application Friday for naming the asteroid “Ohsadaharu.”
One of those who helped file the application was Hitoshi Yamaoka, an associate professor at Kyushu University and a senior member of the Japan Spaceguard Association. The association searches for asteroids that could potentially hit the Earth.
The minor planet, estimated to be about 3 kilometers in diameter, orbits the sun every three years and eight months.
It was discovered in July 2000 by researchers in the association’s BATTeRS project using a 25 centimeter in diameter telescope at the Bisei Spaceguard Center in the city of Ibara, Okayama Prefecture. BATTeRS is short for Bisei Asteroid Tracking Telescope for Rapid Survey.
The asteroid’s official code number, 61189, includes 1, Oh’s jersey number when he played for and served as manager of the Yomiuri Giants, and 89, his jersey number during the period when he managed the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, and its successor, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
Yamaoka and his colleagues often hold an event, dubbed “science pub,” in the city of Fukuoka where they gather to drink and discuss issues about astronomy. The city is home to the Softbank Hawks, who play in the Pacific League.
After coming up with the idea to name the asteroid after Oh, the group finally met with the slugger, now the chairman of the Hawks, in July where they obtained his consent.
“Our wish has come true, so we are happy,” Yamaoka, 50, said.
“I feel so honored,” said the 75-year-old Oh. “I would be very happy if this further inspires people, including children, who are interested in space, and help those who have not had the chance to learn about space and start to have fun in the field.”
During his two-decade career as a player for the Giants from 1959 to 1980, the left-handed hitter, known for his signature flamingo-style batting stance, hit 868 home runs.
As manager, Oh led the Daiei Hawks to victory in the Japan Series in 1999 and 2003.