“Thank you!” pouring rain → 200 fans and ‘immediate signing event’… Sasaki, who received applause, is recovering from the ‘imperfect image’

When Chiba Lotte Marines refused to allow them to advance to the Major League this winter, Loki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines), who caused noise during salary negotiations, actively communicated with fans to recover his fallen image.

Selected by the Chiba Lotte Marines in the first round of the 2019 Japanese professional baseball rookie draft, Sasaki received keen attention from not only Chiba Lotte but also Japanese baseball fans when he joined the team. Since his high school years, Sasaki has garnered attention by throwing fastballs in the late 150 kilometers, and there were high expectations for his performance in the professional stage. However, Sasaki never made it to the first division in his first season. This was because of Chiba Lotte’s thorough management.

Chiba Lotte gave Sasaki consideration so that he could only focus on building his body for a year so that he could play healthy on the professional stage. Instead, he allowed him to gain experience indirectly by always accompanying the top-tier Korean pro team. He has been on the mound since 2021, in his second year as a member of the team. At that time, Sasaki pitched in 11 games to garner three wins, two losses and an ERA of 2.27 and fans’ expectations were even higher. Sasaki made his name known all over the world in the 2022 season.

This is because Sasaki achieved the youngest “perfect game” in Japanese professional baseball history against the Orix Buffaloes in the early part of the season. In particular, Sasaki became the “first” pitcher to achieve a perfect game with no experience in complete pitching on the professional stage, and in the process, he struck out 13 batters in a row, setting a new unauthorized world record. Sasaki then rose to stardom by blocking eight perfect innings even in the mound immediately after achieving the perfect game.

Loki Sasaki during the 2023 World Baseball Classic./Getty Images Korea

Sasaki played 9-4 with a 2.02 ERA in 20 games, including achieving a perfect game in the 2022 season, and based on that momentum, he joined the World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team in March last year, helping the Japanese national team lift the championship trophy with a “total victory.” And last season, which started with high expectations, he only played in 15 games due to finger blisters and ruptured inner abdominal muscles, but he left a not bad performance of 7-4 with a 1.78 ERA.마카오토토주소

It was after the season that Sasaki’s image, which had been on a high march, fell. In Japan, he can always challenge the Major League with the permission of his team from his first year as a professional player, and Sasaki also expressed his intention to advance to the Major League. However, since he entered the professional stage, he has never played a full-time season, and since players under the age of 25 are signed only within the international amateur contract “Bosnerpool,” Chiba Lotte did not allow Sasaki to challenge, as the posting fee is not large.

Then, the conflict began. Sasaki, who had never crossed the line in the salary negotiation process since he wore the Chiba Lotte uniform through the 2019 draft, did not sign the contract this winter even after the year had passed. In addition, as the news spread that Sasaki withdrew from the Japan Professional Baseball Association early last year, voices of criticism against Sasaki began to rise in Japan, and eventually, the contract was signed soon after the departure of the spring camp.

Sasaki apologized for causing a stir in interviews with Japanese reporters after agreeing on salary for the 2024 season, and Chiba Lotte also tried to protect its family members, saying that this was not just Sasaki’s fault. Sasaki seems to be struggling to recover his fallen image at the spring camp that started on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa.

According to multiple local media including Japan’s Sponichi Annex and Sports Hochs, Sasaki had time to communicate and breathe with fans on Saturday (Korea time). Ishigaki Island received heavy rain and strong winds from the morning. However, fans visited the Chiba Lotte Spring Camp site to see the players despite bad weather conditions. Sasaki put her arms up in response.

Sasaki walked toward fans amid the rain and started an impromptu signing event. According to multiple Japanese media, Sasaki signed autographs for all 200 fans who visited the site for about 36 minutes. “After the 36-minute signing event, the fans applauded,” Sports Hoch said, while Sponichi Annex said, “After the signing event, fans shouted ‘Thank you!'”

As for baseball talent, there is no doubt that he is the “best” among Japanese professional baseball players. This is why Major League Baseball teams are paying attention to Sasaki’s moves. As it was a happening where he disagreed with his team in his dream of entering the big league, not about crime and morality, Sasaki is trying hard to become a trusted player again.

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