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Kamei takes heart from home run

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Yoshiyuki Kamei trotted into the interview space with an ecstatic expression on his face, as if he still couldn’t believe what had happened moments before.

“I finally got one, I finally got one,” he said, referring to his ninth-inning game-tying solo homer, after Thursday’s Game 5 of the Japan Series in which the Yomiuri Giants edged the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 on a sayonara victory.

It was Shinnosuke Abe who took the plaudits by hitting the game-winning homer. But Kamei’s first-pitch solo dinger beforehand changed the momentum at Tokyo Dome, setting the stage for Abe’s shot.

“I didn’t think too much, I just hit it with my heart,” said Kamei, who marked a .290 batting average with 25 homers and 71 RBIs in the pennant race. “I was only aware of my timing with the ball. I didn’t mind making contact with the top of the bat.”

Kamei was in a slump going 3-for-15 — although he hit a two-run homer off Yu Darvish in Game 2 — entering Game 5.

And before the final at-bat, Kamei was held 0-for-3. In his third bat-bat in the sixth, he vented his frustration by slamming his bat after it was cracked in two pieces by a pitch from Fighters starter Shugo Fujii, when he flied out to first in foul territory.

“You don’t want to do those kinds of things,” Kamei said. “But I guess my heart came out in my actions.”

The 27-year-old outfielder (though he played first base in Games 4 and 5), who has hit in the No. 5 spot in the batting lineup for most of the season, repeatedly used the word “heart” to the surrounding reporters.

Kamei came to take extra batting practice before the games at the Big Egg just as he did during the the season. But strong determination and a tough mind-set is what he believes is important rather than technical matters like batting mechanics to play in a short-term series like the Japan Series.

“Even if you try to fix (technical) things, you don’t have much time anyway,” he said. “It’s not about mechanics — it’s about your determination, because this is certainly a do-or-die situation.”