SAPPORO – Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters youngster Kenshi Sugiya and his father, Mitsuru, are a unique father-son tandem. Both of them have been professional athletes.
Mitsuru Sugiya was a Japan featherweight champion boxer, who also fought in a WBC world title match, in the mid-1980s.
But it seems like baseball isn’t really meant for the elder Sugiya.
“No, he’s not coming,” the younger Sugiya said, when asked if his father would attend be attending any Japan Series games, before Wednesday’s Game 4 at Sapporo Dome. “He’s come to see me play one time, and then said it’s easier to watch on television and would never come afterward.”
Nevertheless, the infielder/outfielder enjoys being on the biggest stage of Japanese pro baseball, which he’d always dreamed of doing.
In fact, he was signed by the Pacific League club during a tryout in 2008 (he was later drafted in the sixth round), refusing to play for an industrial league club, for which he was originally going to join.
Sugiya’s biggest trait is his relentless energy, and he always leads the team with his loud cheers during practices and games.
The 21-year-old Sugiya is a Tokyo native and played at a powerhouse Teikyo High School there. Although his team’s franchise city is Sapporo, for him Tokyo is somewhere he could feel at home as well.
“Let’s make it a 2-2 tie,” Sugiya said in a loud voice. “And let’s go back to Tokyo. Let me get back to my hometown.”
Just wanted to play: Fighters rookie right-hander Toshiharu Moriuchi said before Wednesday’s Game 4 that he entered the NBP championship series without a lot of jitters.
Because he doesn’t really know its significance.
“I didn’t feel much pressure,” said Moriuchi, who made his Japan Series debut as a middle reliever in Game 1. “It just felt like there were a bit more fans.”
Moriuchi said that he grew up not really watching pro baseball.
“No, I did not,” Moriuchi admitted, answering a question about if he had a favorite NPB club during his childhood. “I didn’t really watch baseball. I’d enjoy playing a lot more.”
The 27-year-old Aomori native, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Pacific League club last fall, would play in a uniform that resembled the jerseys of the Yomiuri Giants, whom he’s currently facing, for a local Little League team.
But that didn’t make him a Giants fan.
“I was wondering why the jerseys were in those colors,” he said with a bitter smile.
Big job by a small guy: Giants outfielder Tetsuya Matsumoto, a tiny 168-cm six-year player, had a banner performance in Tuesday’s Game 3. Not only did he come up with three singles, but Matsumoto also had a spectacular diving catch in the fifth and a courageous sliding play at home that broke up a possible double play in the eighth.
Without both plays, the game might have been more lopsided. (Yomiuri lost 7-3.)
“You never know what’d happen. You don’t just give up. If you can avoid a double play there, you may still have a chance to score,” said Matsumoto, a former ikusei (developmental roster) player, of the latter play.