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Korean relief pitcher heats up Japanese pro baseball

Posted October. 21, 2014 03:11,   


Japan’s Kansai region, including Osaka and Kobe, is witnessing fever of post-season pro baseball events these days. For the first time in nine years, the Hanshin Tigers from Kansai has advanced to the Japan Series after sweeping four consecutive games against its archrival, the Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo, in the final stage of the Central League’s Climax Series. Osaka’s love of Hanshin even goes beyond Busan’s affection for the Lotte Giants or Gwangju’s love of the Kia Tigers in Korea. Some analysis suggested that Hanshin`s winning the championship would generate the biggest "economic impact" in Japan.

The player who contributed the most to Hanshin’s advance to the Japan Series is new relief pitcher Oh Seung-hwan from Korea. After playing in two games against Hiroshima on the CS First Stage, Oh took the mound in all four games against Yomiuri and successfully secured victory for his team. Including the last five regular-season games that he played, he pitched in 11 consecutive games and won all of them. He became the first Korean to receive the post season MVP award in his first year of the Japanese pro baseball, which is truly remarkable.

Banking on fast and heavy balls and strong gut, which enabled him to stay calm even in crises, Oh used to be nicknamed “finisher” and “Buddhist statue” in Korea. After moving to Japan this year, he garnered 39 saves in the regular season to become the "save king" of the league. Moreover, he pitched in all of the post-season games, and continued his winning streak, making instrumental contributions to his team’s victory, and taking the entire Japanese archipelago by storm. The Stone Buddhist Statue from Korea has earned the new nickname “stone god” in Japan.

In the late 1990s, Sun Dong-yeol, the relief pitcher of the Junichi Dragons, was like vitamin to this writer, who was then serving as a Japan correspondent, helping ease my stress from workload. Kansai is a region where many ethnic Koreans are living. Stellar performance by Oh Seung-hwan, the "guardian for Hanshin," will give joy of watching his games and pride in their motherland to ethnic Korean residents of Japan, dispatched employees from Korean companies and their families in Japan. Hanshin will set out on the seven-game Japan Series against the winner of the Pacific League from Saturday. It is hoped that Oh will continue his quality pitching in the Japan Series following the regular season and CS, and emerge as a legend in the Japanese pro baseball.