Kyuji Fujikawa made his Shikoku Island League debut on June 20. He started the game and gave up a run over four innings of work. He topped out at 146km/h. He was originally scheduled to pitch two or three innings, but he pushed to go four.
Scouts from Hanshin, Yokohama, Softbank, and Rakuten were at the game. About 140 members of the media were also at the game.
There was a long line in front of the ticket window, about 700 people, before gates at the stadium opened. Twenty security guards, ten times the usual number, watched over the game. Kochi police were also at the ready.
Fujikawa is slated to pitch against on June 27.
Fujikawa's line: 4.0 IP, 57 NP, 18 BF, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1 R, 1 ER.
Attendance: 2865 | Time: 2h43m | Venue: Kochi Stadium
Nikkan Sports has posted the following from Fujikawa's post-game press conference:
On pitching in his first game back in Japan in his home town Kochi.
The game ended in a tie. Maybe there was more to be gain with a win. There are lot of things I need to work on for my next outing. It's been a while since I pitched off a mound in Japan. I was careful about my balance when I threw the ball. I think things will continue to improve.
The hometown fans were cheering loudly.
Just as usual. I made me think about being able to pitch in a place where the fans get behind me and the people around me support me. Whether it's at Koshien or a stadium in Kochi, I didn't get too much of it in the United States though. I need to grab opportunity by the horns.
You loaded the bases with no out in the 4th.
When I loaded the bases in the 4th, I felt like I had to get my engine re-started. It's those kinds of situations that push me. If my game is at eighty or ninety percent right now, it helps push it up higher, even by one percent. It was an important game.
What was going through your mind at that moment?
It started with runners on first and third [and no out]. I fell behind in the count with the next hitter and thought it might be better to walk him. Over the course of a game, you have to pick and choose where you push hard. Being able to throw a good first pitch fastball [to the next batter with the bases loaded] is important.
How do you grade your outing?
I did give up a run. I also want to communicate more with the fielders. The game ended in a tie, so no grade.
Why four innings?
To be honest, I haven't pitched on a mound in Japan for a while. It was expected. But I was thinking about going the distance as I pitched.
There were NPB scouts in the stands. You showed good pitches.
No. Baseball players work hard during games. I only face hitters during games and the team is always looking to win, that never changes. As a player, I'm not out there for fame.
You topped 146km/h. You were hitting 150km/h and higher when you played for Hanshin.
The gun at Koshien is fast. I think I'll hit it though. You throw fastballs based on how you approach hitters. I want to push myself to do things I'm supposed to as a baseball player.
- Fujikawa pitched in his first batting practice scrimmage on June 13. He faced nine hitters, threw thirty-three pitches (twenty-two fastballs), gave up one hit, walked one, and struck out two. About 500 fans showed up to watch him pitch. Kochi usually does not draw more than ten or so fans to their practices.
- Fujikawa uniforms (red and black) and key chains have been selling well.
- Fujikawa threw four a more innings in a game for the first time since he threw five innings in relief with Hanshin during a Ni-gun game against Chunichi on July 17, 2004. The last time he threw four or more innings in a game at Ichi-gun was when he pitched five innings as a starter against Yomiuri on September 19, 2003. This was his first game in Japan since September 15, 2012.
- Fujikawa's contract runs game to game. He signed his contract on June 20 about thirty minutes before the start of the game.
Sources: official report, Nikkan Sports 6/21/2015, Nikkan Sports 6/20/2015, Nikkan Sports 6/20/2015, Nikkan Sports 6/20/2015, Daily Sports 6/21/2015, Daily Sports 6/21/2015, Daily Sports 6/20/2015, Daily Sports 6/20/2015, Daily Sports 6/13/2015, Daily Sports 6/13/2015, Tokyo Sports 6/20/2015, Sanspo 6/21/2015, Sanspo 6/14/2015, Sponichi 6/21/2015
For those that can understand Japanese, OB.tv weighs in on Fujikawa's return: