Hisashi Iwakuma started playing baseball as an elementary school first grader at the age of 6, by throwing a ball against a wall in a game of catch with himself and dreaming of becoming a professional. Now, at age 24, he is arguably the best pitcher in Japanese pro baseball.

Iwakuma will be aiming for a third consecutive season with 15 or more wins, as he gets set to throw the first pitch in the history of his new team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, on Opening Day 2005 against the Chiba Lotte Marines on March 26.

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