Koji Uehara - World Series champion





Okay, this is very late, but I thought I'd do a write up anyway. Besides, it's snowing here on the east coast and work has been canceled due to the storm so I'm stuck indoors (I've discovered there's a LOT of shit on daytime TV, apart from the news, so I'm better off doing something constructive).

Anyway, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series but what caught my eye was the great sports photos of relief pitcher Koji Uehara. Upon clinching the championship, Keiji was front and center---an Asian male the focal point of the championship photos. Interestingly enough, the Boston Red Sox also have Japanes relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa in the bull pen as well.



But Uehara has an interesting backstory. Koji Uehara was the American League Championship series MVP, pitching well enough in relief in the 9th inning for scoreleess inning, striking out two Detroit Tigers batters, giving up only an infield single. However, at the start of the 2013 season, Uehara was positioned as the middle reliever, expected to come in during the 7th or 8th innings in setting up for then established closer Joshua Hanrahan. Moreover, Uehara, 38 years of age, pitched in five of the six American League championship games, giving up only 4 hits and no runs. He also became the first relief pitcher since legendary New York Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera in 2003 to win a championship MVP.

Most notable about Uehara's journey is that he started off with one of MY hometown teams, the Baltimore Orioles. He had minimal success and later was traded to the Texas Rangers whereupon he had similar, unremarkable results. He then signed with the Boston Red Sox, who saw something in him, and by fate, was established as the closer after season ending injuries to two other closers on the pitching staff. And ever since, the man has been almost unhittable. In one amazing stat, Mark Simon of ESPN.com pointed out that since July 2013 to the post season, "opposing hitters are 17 for 162 with 65 strikeouts and 2 walks".  I'm not a stats or math guy, but I think that translates to giving up a hit roughly every 100 at bats. That's pretty amazing shut down stuff.

However, that's not the only remarkable thing about his journey. It is where he began. Albert Chen of SI.com wrote a nice piece on him here.

" Out of high school he failed the entrance exam for prospective university students, and he began working as a security guard to make money while he studied for his next chance at university. All he wanted was a way toward a respectable life. His career goals were modest: He wanted to teach -- he was always a good athlete, and high school physical education was one option. A life in baseball, playing in the major leagues in America? Back then he would have laughed at the idea....
 Long before he became one of the most beloved players on this Red Sox team, Koji Uehara was a teenager with no baseball future. Most of Japan's best baseball players were famous by the time they reached college; the national high school baseball tournament, Koshien, which enjoys as much hype as March Madness is in the U.S., turns high schoolers into national stars. Uehara never even played in Koshien, and when he was eventually admitted to university, he joined the baseball team at Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences.

On one of the first days of practice, the coach asked if there was anyone who wanted to pitch. Uehara had been an outfielder in high school as well, but he had always enjoyed pitching in the rare instances he took the mound....He raised his hand."

And upon joining the Red Sox years later, "the pitcher went on to deliver a regular season that was, quite simply, one of the greatest by a reliever in baseball history. On June 26, Uehara notched his second save, and after that he put up numbers that would be hard to replicate with an Xbox controller. He went 34⅓ innings without giving up an earned run, a streak during which he retired 37 batters in a row. For the season he led all major leaguers in ERA (1.09), strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.22) and WHIP (0.57), which was the lowest ever for a pitcher with at least 40 innings (he logged 74⅓). He threw 74% of his pitches for strikes, the highest rate for any pitcher (with 10 innings or more) since at least 2000, the first year such data exists. He became the first major leaguer to record 100 strikeouts in a season while issuing fewer than 10 walks."



And just yesterday, the two Red Sox pitchers met with US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK,  in Tokyo during a tour to showcase the World Series trophy to the Japanese baseball fans. "This is a great event," Kennedy said at a reception at the Embassy's residence. "Last fall's victory would not have happened without these two players here tonight."

Guy is lost and directionless after graduating high school, but he works his ass off and makes the most of his opportunities that come his way. So how's that? Is that alpha enough for ya?
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