Tigers Win 3rd Title Behind Dazzling Pitching
By Mel Tsuji
TORONTO – It was like the October baseball classic—except it was the sandlot version.
It had all the qualities—dominating pitching, sharp hitting and outstanding defensive plays—and that’s why this year’s championship game of the Japanese Canadian Sunday Baseball League will be remembered as one of the best in recent memory.
The final score had the Tigers winning their 3rd JCBL title in a 6-2 victory over the regular-season leaders, the Whales.
But the score doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. For it was a year of upsets. The Whales went undefeated during the season and were expected to come out on top, but it didn’t happen.
Though the Tigers had twice been previous winners, they had a very disappointing season. And the Warriors, long-time champions over the last decade, were never in it. And the Giants, champions just three years ago, wound up last, a victim of aging veterans.
The star of the 2012 finale was Tsukasa Murakoso, a 27-year-old former pitcher with Meiji University in Tokyo, who had a no-hitter going until the 5th inning. He ended the game giving up two runs and four hits.
It was a magnificent pitching performance with Murakoso, standing only 5’4” and weighing 140 lbs, keeping the Whales hitters off balance with a brilliant array of sizzling fastballs and crackling curves.
“It was like a game you’d see in Japan—just great baseball,” said one observer.
It was no surprise, considering the Tigers captain Osamu Shinya and former manager Tadashi Kojima, have managed to find and recruit fine players.
Some talented players from Japan were in the Tigers lineup, including Tomo Hiro, a 25-year-old catcher and high school phys ed teacher from Osaka, His playing credentials include being a member of Osaka’s
Uenomiya Taishi baseball team that won the national high school baseball championship at Koshien. He’s visiting here for a year on a working-holiday visa.
Tiger shortstop Masaya Sawabe was captain of his Kanazawa high school team that also made it to the Koshien Stadium national playoffs. He’s also here on a working-holiday visa.
Besides those players, the Tigers were able to field a formidable lineup that included lefty pitcher Murakoso and power-hitter Tadashi Kojima, also a former high school standout.
Players from Japan have become the wild-card in the league, ever since the working-holiday visa program was introduced over 30 years ago.
It gives young people under the age of 29 a chance to visit abroad and work up to 20 hours a week. Among the countries represented included: Canada, Japan, the US the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
The working holiday program has been especially popular between Canada and Japan especially with the young girls from Japan, who’ve taken advantage of the travel/working opportunities in Canada.
But an increasing number of young professionals among Japanese men have recently been coming to Canada, and among them have been talented, former baseball players who relish the opportunity to play weekend ball after a challenging week of learning conversational English.