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Lions’ Seratelli hopes to make mark in Japan

by

Staff Writer

Meta

Before a game at Tokyo Dome last week, the Seibu Lions’ Anthony Seratelli took a quick glance around to see where his father, Russell, might have sat.

When Anthony, a New Jersey native, was in college at Seton Hall, Russell had been a fixture at Pirates games.

“We had a parking deck that went up five levels and he was always in the fourth deck and he was always recording, he had his video camera,” Anthony Seratelli told The Japan Times. “So I have some film from college. He was always there, so I knew where he was.”

After Seratelli turned pro in 2006, playing in various places and leagues across the U.S., his father would watch him play when he could, especially when Seratelli’s teams were nearby.

Tragically, his father passed away after a car accident in 2011, a circumstance that’s not easy for anyone to deal with. But Seratelli persevered, and continued on with his career. He of course wishes his dad was still around, but says he feels his presence as he plays.

What then might Russell have thought of his son being in Japan? Anthony is playing in front of crowds in the tens of thousands, where, for Westerners, the atmosphere is more akin to college football or soccer, and fans sing a personalized song for him throughout each of his at-bats.

“I think he would think this is awesome,” Seratelli said. “I kind of imagine him in the stands somewhere, I don’t know quite where. I hope that he’s watching. I’m just trying to make him proud.”

After a delayed start, because of a back injury, Seratelli is finally beginning to get his feet wet in Japan.

He made his ichi-gun debut on May 22 as a pinch hitter. He was in the lineup the next night and doubled for his first NPB hit. On Wednesday at the Big Egg, in front of a crowd of 44,301, Seratelli drove in his first two NPB runs with a single that contributed to a 5-4 victory.

“A moment like that in the Tokyo Dome with 40-plus thousand people, it was a thrilling moment for me in my career,” he said. “Just to help myself get going here at this level and help the team get back on track, it felt really good.”

Seratelli is still learning how things work in Japan. He has ties to the country, his grandmother is Japanese and lives in Fukuoka, but is still experiencing Japan for the first time.

Because of his injury, he spent the early weeks of the year with Seibu’s ni-gun team. Now there’s a new set of things to get used to on the top level. Friends and former teammates with NPB experience let him know some of what to expect before he arrived, and Ernesto Mejia, a slugger in his second season in Japan, has also been a big help.

“I’d say it’s about everything they told me,” Seratelli said. “I knew the fans were unbelievable, I know that these guys work hard, and they do a lot more repetition than we do, so it’s intense. It’s pretty much everything I was told, but now I have to live it. Now I have to learn it and live it and try to succeed.”

Who knows, one day Seratelli might put some of his experiences on screen for all to see. Making short films is a passion of his, and something he wants to really dive into one day. It’s a hobby he picked up from his father, who would make video montages of family events.

Seratelli created ArS*1 Productions (a one-man labor of love), as a vehicle for his hobby, and a tribute to his father is among the videos found on the company’s website.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be something I do after baseball. I don’t do it so much during the season; just not enough time. It was fun in the minor leagues in America, when I had a lot of teammates who liked to goof around in our down time. Here, I have a hard time communicating, so I don’t get to do that.”

For now the focus is on making the most of his time with the Lions. He’s in Japan after nine seasons in the minor leagues, first on the independent circuit, then in the Kansas City Royals’ organization from 2007-2013. He got a contract from the New York Mets, essentially his hometown team, for the 2014 season, spending the year in Triple-A Las Vegas and hitting .279 with 40 RBIs.

“I’ve come a long way, I know that,” he said. “My ultimate goal was to get to the major leagues in the U.S. and to play in my country. Almost played in my hometown kind of in New York last year. That would’ve all been a dream come true.

“But if I can’t get there, this is just as good. This is a high level of baseball, the fans are unbelievable and people want to win and you get paid to play. What’s better than that?”