Right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda will toss in a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey — but on a familiar mound at Mazda Stadium, the home of his former club Hiroshima Carp in Game 4 of the MLB Japan All-Star Series on Tuesday night.
Organizers announced the starting hurlers for the contest on Sunday.
“It’s been a while since I’ve pitched in Japan and I’m very pleased to have the chance,” Maeda told a news conference at Tokyo Dome ahead of Game 3 of the series. “Facing the (Japanese) national team will be a great opportunity for me as well, and hopefully I will be able to enjoy it.”
Maeda, a third-year MLB player, said that the series’ inclusion of a game in Hiroshima was “one of the major reasons” why he opted to represent the major league squad. The Osaka native added that he is thrilled about taking the hill before what should be a high number of Carp fans.
“Hopefully, I would like to show how much I’ve developed in the last three years in America,” said the 30-year-old, who was 8-10 and contributed to the Dodgers’ run to the World Series as both a starter and reliever for the second consecutive year.
Enrique Hernandez, Maeda’s Dodgers teammate who is also on the MLB All-Star team, said that he was excited for the series to have a local hero like Maeda.
“I’ve been hearing stories about how popular Kenta is here, how big he is,” Hernandez said. “It’s pretty exciting to see Kenta in his own element, in his own environment, and I can’t wait to see what the people are going to be like in Hiroshima.”
Hernandez, who had a career year with 21 homers for the National League champions, said that the MLB players will tour Hiroshima on Monday and that he expects a hero’s welcome for Maeda.
“As soon as we get there, we’re going to explore the city,” Hernandez said. “I’m just really excited to have Kenta here. He can’t stop smiling, so that’s pretty cool to see.”
Game 4 will feature Hiroshima right-hander Daichi Osera starting for Samurai Japan, a decision that should delight Carp fans even more.
“I’ve spent some time with him at the Carp, and he’s looked up to me,” Maeda said of the 27-year-old Osera, who tied for the most wins in Japan’s Central League (15) this year. “I never thought a day would come in wich I would pitch against him at Mazda. I would like to do my best, so I won’t let him outperform me.”
Staff writer Jason Coskrey contributed to this report.