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Carp outfielders turning heads

by Jason Coskrey

Fans sitting in the first few rows along the outfield wall at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium can leave their gloves at home.

Because if there’s a ball heading toward that part of the stadium, Carp outfielders are going to catch it.

Hiroshima’s outfielders — who’ve twice this month turned heads by climbing the fence to take away home runs — are quickly joining Sawamura Award candidate Kenta Maeda as a couple of the reasons to keep an eye on the team.

The Carp may be in the downturns of another disappointing season, but at least their stay in the bottom half of the standings has been entertaining.

Soichiro Amaya on Sunday made a spectacular play in center field, leaping onto — yes onto — the top of the fence to take a home run away from Yokohama BayStars slugger Brett Harper.

Amaya’s grab would be far and away the top defensive play of the year . . . had teammate Masato Akamatsu not scaled the wall on Aug. 4 to rob the BayStars’ Shuichi Murata.

Amaya and Akamatsu did the lion’s share of the work, but give a nod to the stadium’s designers, who put a low fence in the outfield, making those types of plays possible.

One reason more outfielders aren’t doing similar things could be that most outfield fences in Japan and the major leagues are too high to climb.

The center-field wall in Mazda Stadium is 2.5 meters high with the fences 3.6 in left and 3.4 in right.

Just low enough to make them prime real estate for an adventurous outfielder looking to snag a surefire home run out of the air.

Neither the speedy Akamatsu nor Amaya is a stranger to making highlight-worthy plays in the outfield and have been delighting fans all season.

It’s just that their two most memorable grabs will get all of the attention.

Akamatsu made a name for himself earlier in the month by scaling the outfield wall to bring back what would have been Murata’s home run. Now Amaya has matched him with a Spiderman-esque grab of his own.

On merit alone, both are spectacular feats of athleticism and concentration.

The best part, however, is that they gave long-suffering Carp fans a little bit to cheer about for once.