Japanese baseball star Masahiro Tanaka said Saturday he hopes to win a gold medal at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and celebrate with Japan fans, as the pitcher returns home after a seven-year stint with the New York Yankees.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, the 32-year-old — now set to play for the Rakuten Eagles — was asked about the possibility of him playing in the postponed Summer Games.
“If I ever have a chance to participate, there is no reason for me to reject,” he said. “I had a bitter feeling when I played in the Beijing Olympics… This time I want to win a gold medal” as part of the host country’s team, he added.
“I’m very excited at the fact I will be able to pitch in front of fans in Japan.” The timing of this year’s games is particularly meaningful, he said, as it comes 10 years after a 2011 tsunami that left thousands dead in Japan.
Star pitcher Tanaka played for the Eagles from 2007 until 2013, when the team won their first-ever “Japan Series” title to the joy of fans in its home city of Sendai, which was devastated by the disaster.
He began a seven-year $155 million contract with the Yankees the following year.
Rakuten’s chairman Hiroshi Mikitani said he hoped Tanaka’s pitching would “invigorate” Japan this year.—APP