This post originally appeared as part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity by Dan J. Glickman to benefit the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”
Baseball in Asia offers so many obscurities to the fans on the other side of the sea; Relentless, boisterous chants throughout a game. Incomprehensible, yet fascinating amount of pitches in bullpen sessions. Towering eephus pitches. And, of course, glorious bat flips that make rounds on the Internet every now and then.
Lately, it’s the KBO who usually demonstrate those mind-boggling pieces of fine art. However, while getting its thunder stolen by the neighbor league, the NPB remains a goldmine of awesome bat flips. In this post, I’ll introduce some bat-flip extraordinaires to keep an eye for the upcoming 2016 season.
Despite the down year he had in 2015, in which he slashed .262/.366/.413 – pedestrian for his standards with the worst average and on-base percentage in a full season -, Itoi is still considered one of, if not the most, talented players in the NPB. At thirty-four, he’s stepping into the decline phase of his career. But if he recovers from the knee problems that bothered him for the entire 2015 season, he’s on track to display some more of these magnificent flips in 2016.
Some bat flips are not like the others. And when it comes to bat flip inordinateness, Takahiro Arai is the one excelles. Every single time he knows he got it, bar none, he finishes his swing two-handed, takes a step or two towards to first base, then gently jettisons the bat, as if he’s putting it on the top of a Jenga tower made of bats.
Alas, he just turned thirty-nine on January 30th, the 17-year NPB veteran’s peak is far behind in the rearview mirror, and the clock for him as a player is about strike midnight. Yet he may have gotten just enough in the tank to reach the 300 career home runs plateau, which he’s just 12 more trips around the diamond away.
Unlike his brother, the younger Arai does it in a more traditional way. Unlike his brother, Ryota has smashed just thirty-two long balls in his ten-year career. But on most of them, he’s display the iconic, sky-high bat flips that seem to be in the air as long as the ball.
The Bat Flip Emperor, Nakamura clubbed 404 dingers – 382 in twenty-two years in Japan and twenty-two more in his one-year stint in the States, in which he spent more of the season at Triple-A. In his heyday, both his power and flips were prodigious. Sadly, at forty-two, his career is likely to be over. But his legacy lives forever. Watch the video above. It captures some Crème de la crème flips the human race ever seen.
After reading about the four players I mentioned above, you may be thinking all the spectacular flippers in the NPB are either old or not good enough to secure a full-time role. No worries. We’ve got some young, up-and-coming potential stars with magnificent bat-flip ability.
Taiga Egoshi is the one whom I believe will become the next big thing in the bat flip industry. In 2015, his rookie campaign, the twenty-two year-old unleashed five homers with sumptuous flips, like the one captured in the video, on all of them.
The Komazawa University product took off early in 2016, going yard in four consecutive games, fourth of which he showed his signature flip, as captured in the video below. With the athleticism and prodigious power, Egoshi should serve as the Tigers’ starting center fielder for years to come.
Takahama is another rookie who made debut in 2015. Though he had just two plate appearances with the ichi-gun (top level) squad. But down on the farm, he flipped the heck outta the bat here and there, every now and then. He doesn’t give a damn if it actually clears the wall or not. Ladies and gentlemen, we might be witnessing the dawn of the career of a legendary bat flipper.
And here are compilations of the rest of bat flippers in the NPB. Enjoy:
Kaz is a Tokyo-based baseball fanatic. He contributes to multiple websites in multiple languages. You can follow him on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki.