On last Saturday, my favorite baseball team defeated the Yomiuri Giants, which was the second place team, and captured first Central League pennant in 25 years.
It was dramatic because the starting pitcher was Hiroki Kuroda, who was a previous ace pitcher in the Carp and came back from MLB to get the championship flag. He had kept his dream to win the League pennant as a team member of the Carp. His dream finally came true! After the game, he was tossed into the air by teammates.
And then, his teammate, Takahiro Arai was also tossed into the air. He is another player who came back to the Carp.
Hiroki Kuroda was an ace pitcher and only one pitcher expected winning in the team before he moved into MLB. There is a long story between him and the Carp fans.
In 2006, it was said that he was going to declare FA (free agent) and leave the Carp. Every Carp fans were shocked to hear the rumor because they were hurt by the FA system for a long time.
The Carp doesn’t have money power, and the Japanese baseball haven’t introduced fair rules like a luxury tax, so the Carp is not competitive in FA market. Before Hiroki Kuroda, the Carp had lost many great players. The players, who declared FA, moved to another team and became an opponent. It was really sad for the fans.
But, at that time, Carp fans could not contain themselves. They made a giant flag persuade him and put up in his final game.
He was impressed and stopped declaring FA in that season. And he started planning to move to MLB, not another Japanese baseball team.
At the end of 2007, he moved to MLB and became one of most successful pitcher in MLB. But, the Carp fans had been expecting that he came back to the Carp in the future. And finally, he turned down a lucrative contract ($16-17 millions) with the Yankees and returned to the Carp last year. He was 40 years old, but he recorded one of his finer seasons in the last season.
He has been leading young pitchers and kept in the stating rotation. I think it was destiny that his turn was at the championship match.
Takahiro Arai is another player who came back to the Carp. He was the fourth batter (In Japanese baseball, the best batter is fourth batter dislike MLB.) He had been trying to improve the Carp with Hiroki Kuroda. But, on the other hand, he could not give up his dream “win the championship.” For his dream, he declared FA and moved to Hanshin Tigers. At that time, the Tigers had obtained three best batters from Hiroshima Toyo Carp, so the Carp was called a firm team of the Tigers.
(As I wrote, the Carp doesn’t have money power. So the basic strategy of the Carp is to hire unknown young players, train them and put them in games for their experiences. It means the Carp spent a lot of “time” cost instead of money. So FA is a big problem for the Carp.)
He also turned down a higher contract with the Tigers and came back to the Carp. In this season, he recorded one of his finer seasons in this season, total 2,000 hits and total 300 HR in his carrier.
At the night when the Carp defeated the Giants, Hiroki Kuroda and Takahiro Arai hugged and cried. The Carp fans cried. Of course, I cried.