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Uchikawa proving to be valuable addition for Hawks

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

No matter how much money they had to pay to acquire this guy, it was wise investment for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

“I’m so excited,” said Uchikawa, who signed a four-year contract with the Hawks last December after playing for the Yokohama BayStars for a decade. “I’ve been waiting (for the playoffs), watching the Lions and the (Hokkaido Nippon Ham) Fighters play on television. I wanted to play surrounded by this big audience sooner than later. It’s rewarding to be a pro baseball player.”

As much as Uchikawa is pleased to have come to a championship-competing team, Softbank is happy that it added such a credible hitter like him, who might able to break the club’s playoff curse.

Game 1 ended up with a two-run ball in the end. But the first two runs that Uchikawa drove in meant more than that, giving the somewhat-stiff Hawks, who failed to capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities in the first two frames a big boost. He connected for a two-out RBI triple as Softbank took a 2-0 lead in the third.

“Had I wasted our chance for the third time, it would’ve put us in a bad situation,” Uchikawa, 29, said. “(But) I had a determination to get an RBI to get the team on a roll there.”

Softbank skipper Koji Akiyama said his players were jittery as they played their first official game in 12 days and their state of mind would be back to normal for the second game.

But Uchikawa, who won his second batting title this year and became the first man since Shinichi Eto to win it in both leagues in 40 years, said he wants to enjoy the challenge on the big stage.

“The Climax Series is a special thing to me,” said Uchikawa, who was on Japan’s World Baseball Classic-winning team in 2009. “It won’t be any different from tomorrow, either.”