The last game pitcher Tony Barnette ever started for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows came against the Chunichi Dragons on March 8, 2011, during spring training. Barnette had already had one life-altering moment that spring — he’d proposed to now-wife Hillary before leaving Arizona for Japan — and, though he didn’t know it, another was right around the corner.
He was messing around with a cutter that day and noticed the Dragons’ power hitters were having trouble getting their bats on it. Junji Ogawa, Yakult’s manager at the time, and pitching coach Daisuke Araki saw this as well. Barnette had joined the Swallows as a starter in 2010, but was cut after going 4-5 with a 5.99 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts). The team quickly re-signed him, however, and now Ogawa had an idea.