Baseball / Japanese Baseball

BayStars unveil Keita Sano as team's new captain

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Keita Sano modeled the Yokohama BayStars’ new visitors’ uniform on a slightly windy Saturday night at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama. While all the BayStars will be wearing the new “Yokohama Blue” threads this year, Sano’s will have an extra touch the others won’t.

A captain’s “C.”

The 25-year-old outfielder was unveiled as the team’s new captain, taking over the role that had been held by the MLB-bound Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.

“There was a style of BayStars baseball that Tsutsugo-san helped establish here, that’s not something I want to change,” Sano said.

Sano, while saying he’d never served as a captain, said he was honored when BayStars manager Alex Ramirez informed him of the decision. The Okayama native is going into his fourth year with the team and coming off his best season, having hit .295 with five home runs in 89 games in 2019.

He’s trying to fill some big shoes, as Tsutsugo had not only grown into one of the franchise’s best-ever players, but one of the city’s favorite sons during his time in Yokohama.

“Tsutsugo has been serving as captain until now and he really achieved some outstanding results and he’s also an amazing person,” Sano said. “I want to create a cheerful team while building on the good culture Tsutsugo left behind.”

Ramirez is backing the young player to reach that goal.

“I didn’t name him captain of the team because I like him,” Ramirez said. “I think he’s a good player. I didn’t just want to give it to him. I think that he earned it throughout these three years. Every single year, he keeps getting better and better and better.”

Sano has been used somewhat sparingly in his first three seasons. He’s only played in 180 games, with 89 of those coming last year. He’s also only had 369 at-bats. With Tsutsugo gone, however, Ramirez is expecting Sano to play a lot more, namely in left field and in the cleanup role in the lineup.

As for naming him as captain, that’s something the Yokohama manager has had in mind for some time.

“Sano came into this organization as a daida (pinch hitter) basically,” Ramirez said. “We didn’t really think he was going to be able to adjust to the outfield. Then he started playing and was pretty good.

“We never thought Tsutsugo was going to be able to leave. Once Tsutsugo decided he wanted to leave to the United States, to the major leagues, I thought ‘who can the next guy be.’

“Then I started thinking about Sano as the next guy. So I started using him, in left field, yonban (No. 4), preparing him for this moment. This is not a decision that I just made. This is a decision that I thought about from way before.”

Tsutsugo will be playing for the Tampa Bay Rays next season. He’s been training in Japan as usual and also relayed some advice to his successor.

“I had a chance to speak to him directly,” Sano said. “First of all, he told me that things weren’t always going to go well and told to just try to be myself.”

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