Earthquake spurs Tsujii's move to U.S. for baseball
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
HOUSTON — Yoshimune Tsujii wasn’t a sports fan when he was young. While his bather played baseball in a Japanese league, “I didn’t like sports in elementary school,” the right-handed reliever said.
But at age 9, his father convinced him to give it a try and today, baseball is his life.
The baby-faced 22-year-old is in Houston for the Pecos Spring League, trying to earn a spot in the Pecos League or someplace else in the U.S.
“I want to play baseball in the United States,” he said. But just like it took him a few years to become a sports fan, it took Tsujii a few years — and an ephiphany — to play in the United States.
In 2008, Tsujii enrolled at Kansas State University to study sociology. He was hoping he could also play ball, but it didn’t work out.
“I wanted to play baseball, but every day I needed to study, so I can’t play baseball,” he said
He eventually went back to Japan to earn the money it would take to see if he had what it takes to make it in America. But while Tsujii was born in Tokyo, he was working in Chiba when an earthquake struck the region. It was almost a year to the day after the 2011 quake and tsunamni that rocked Japan, and the house he was living in became unlivable.
It made him think.
“If I died, I can’t play baseball in the U.S.,” he thought, so he gather up what money he had and moved back to the U.S.
He played that spring in the Arizona Winter League, where, according to PointStreak, he pitched for both the Somerton Stingers and Saskatchewan Silver Sox, where he appeared in 17 games, pitching 40.1 innings in relief. His ERA — 7.00 for the Stingers and 5.40 for Saskatchewan — put him in the middle of the stats.
At some point last year, he got an e-mail from Santa Fe Fuego and Garden of Gears manager Bill Moore, who told him about theb Pecos Spring League. Tsujii hadn’t heard about the Pecos League, but some other Japanese players had, and encouraged him to come to the spring camp, where he’s now pitching for Moore.
Although he had a rough start in Game 1, his last two games were much better.
“Yoshi, the last two times he’s been out there, he’s done exactly what he needed to do,” Moore said. “He came in, got three outs, then it was our turn to hit. One, two, three. One, two, three, is a pretty good way to dance.”
Tsujii would like to get picked up for the Pecos League or another league this summer — he would like to play for Moore but will go wherever he’s asked — but he does have a backup plan if he doesn’t find a career in the U.S.
“(I want to play a) long time, but (I’m) now 22 (years old). If 25, I can’t get professional baseball league contract, I finish baseball. But just play. I will coach junior high school or high school in Japan.”
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212