Clutch moves from overseas

Japanese players bolster Eagles baseball with key hits and pitching

By Eva Hannan

Laney Eagles baseball players Yuki Kano and Masayuki Eguchi at Laney’s field before practice session. Kano spends his free time watching movies and relaxing. Eguchi enjoys listening to music, talking with his family., and photography. (Photo by Eva Hannan)

The road to baseball glory is paved with clutch hits.

Laney’s Masayuki Eguchi, batting first in the bottom of the sixth inning against Los Medanos College on April 17, ripped a ground single into right field to start the rally that would beat the Mustangs 4–1 and knock LMC out of first place in the Bay Valley Conference.

It also brought an end to Mustang pitcher Dominic Arias’ perfect game.

After allowing the single, Arias walked Laney catcher Jesus Manzo.

LMC put in left-hander Scott Meylan to face left-fielder Kameron Proctor with nobody out and runners on first and second.

Proctor’s successful sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third.

Then, lead-off hitter Kevin Whitaker crushed a three-run homer over the left-field fence.

More stellar batting and base-running followed, with the Eagles scoring again that inning.

It all started with Eguchi’s clutch single to right.

Eguchi, 19, came 4,892 miles from snowy Aomori at the northern end of Japan to play baseball for Laney.

Yuki Kano flew even further — 5,142 miles from Tokyo, Japan.

He is a middle-inning relief pitcher for the Eagles.

“He has talent,” head coach Francisco Zapata said, “and a pretty good split-finger fastball in the low 80’s.”

Kano, 25, has appeared in 7–1/3 innings in nine games.

Hitters have a .200 batting average against him.

“It’s been up and down for him, but it’s been better as of late,” Zapata said.

Kano has also given up five walks and hit seven batters.

The American baseball emphasis on statistics was noted by Kano.

“Here, everything is data,” he said. “How many pitches, inside or outside, everything is put in the computer. We don’t do that in Japan.”

Focus on the field is different in other ways too, Eguchi said.

“In defense, Japanese coaches want certainty [that the play will be made]. Here, speed is praised,” he said.

Eguchi shows off his ability to do both at second base.

He has played 16 games with a fielding percentage of .935 while racking up 17 put outs and 26 assists.

These Japanese students aren’t the first from another country to contribute to the baseball team.

Laney baseball players have come from Columbia and The Netherlands as well, Zapata said.

There are over 500 students from other countries attending school in the Peralta district, Athletics Director John Beam said, although most of them are not athletes as well.

“I had to try out to play baseball,” Kano said, “so I went to Seattle and Oregon, and then I decided to come here. The school is a good location, close to San Francisco, and they have good coaches. I like it here.”

Both students are enrolled in ESL classes.

“They do their best and have a great attitude,” Zapata said.

The language barrier is the biggest challenge these players face, he said.

Eguchi and Kano are finishing up their freshman year, so they will be back to play for Laney in the 2019 season.

During the summer, they both plan to visit their homes in Japan.


Eva Hannan is a Tower staff writer