Akinori Iwamura is just one of the promising rookies calling Tropicana Field home this year. Prior to his sojurn in
south Central Florida, Iwamura was a power-hitting infielder for Tokyo’s Yakult Swallows. He bats left and throws right. His best season overseas was 2004, when he hit 44 home runs and drove in 103 over 138 games. He has also won five Japanese Gold Gloves.
He’s big in Japan
He’s pretty much picked up where he left off since coming to the U.S. this year. He was one of the less-heralded signees from the Nippon League, going to a small-market team with no history of winning in the Devil Rays, but he’s reveled in the chance to prove himself in American baseball, hitting .349 and slugging .512 as of 4/19/07.
Home Run! First of many
Early in the season, he went four for four with a home run and got dogpiled by ecstatic teammates, which gave us this fantastic quote (via interpreter): “Everybody’s bigger than I am, and I was at the bottom, underneath, but I had great excitement”. To paraphrase Peter Graves in Airplane, Do you like movies about Gladiators, Aki? He’s also had some marvelous catches, but MLB will sue the pants off of anyone who puts them on YouTube, so we mostly have dubbed hitting highlights from Japanese TV. Oh well, chicks dig the longball, no matter what country you call home.
One piece of advice, Aki. In America, high-fiving the mascot is not considered to be cool
Akinori’s keeping a diary of his rookie season here, so you can keep tabs on his accomplishments as written in his own translated words. One thing’s for sure, with Iwamura at the plate and on the corner, denizens of Tampa are having great excitement. And as Nippon baseball gains recognition in the U.S., we can only hope to see more beautiful young ladies wearing the Yakult jersey. See it at right, and imagine the possibilities.