LOS ANGELES – Trailblazing pitcher Hideo Nomo was honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pregame ceremony Saturday.
The right-hander, who turned his back on Nippon Professional Baseball the way he turned his back on batters in his unique windup, joined the Dodgers in 1995 and went 123-109 in the big leagues, throwing two no-hitters.
Nomo’s success in North America initiated a wave of player movement from Japan to the majors.
“I was never nervous when I was on the field,” said the 44-year-old Nomo, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. “I’m a little nervous today.”
Wearing the No. 16 uniform he wore as a Dodger, Nomo drew a roar from the crowd when he went into his trademark tornado windup.
“It made me want to take the field once more as a player,” he said.
The Dodgers gave Nomo bobblehead dolls to the first 50,000 fans in attendance.
Nomo, who in 1990 won the Pacific League MVP, rookie-of-the-year honors and the Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, led the league in wins in each of his first four seasons with the Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Following the 1994 season, he retired from NPB and joined the Dodgers through a loophole that then permitted retired Japanese players to play overseas.
Nomo became Japan’s second big leaguer and its first since Masanori Murakami pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965.
Nomo won 13 games as a Dodgers rookie, started the 1995 All Star Game for the National League and was named the circuit’s rookie of the year.
He pitched 12 seasons in the majors, his last in 2008, when he pitched three games for the Kansas City Royals.
“I believe Japanese players are able to play in the major leagues because Mr. Nomo opened the door for us,” Yankee’s right-hander Hiroki Kuroda said in a video tribute.
“Thank you for making it possible for all of us.”