From Japan to the United States: How Kazuhisa Makita Conquered eastern to Western Baseball

Japanese athletes have long made their mark in the western sports arena. Proving to be equally competent, if not more, compared to their western counterparts. In the United States alone, there are already plenty of athletes who have made a name for themselves.

A good example of a Japanese-American athlete who is making waves at the moment is figure skater Mirai Nagasu. Her excellence in her craft has made her an Olympic veteran, having competed at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics where she garnered fourth place. In 2014, Nagasu excluded herself from the team dispatched to Sochi Winter Olympics to join the U.S. National Championships. Her decision paid off in the end, with Nagasu finishing third in the U.S. National Championships.

Mirai Nagasu competed once again in the PyeongChang Olympics 2018. She has broken records as the second American woman figure skater to perfectly land a triple axel. The first woman figure skater who was able to achieve this feat was Tonya Harding in 1991.

Another Japanese-American athlete happens to be a duo, who are also into competitive figure skating. The brother and sister duo of Alex and Maia Shibutani just competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics to represent the United States in ice dancing where they were successful enough to gain the third price for their level.

The decision to compete as a dancing pair proved to be best for the siblings, as they were previously training to be single competitive skaters. The pair has already accomplished so much, despite their young age, and are Olympic veterans after having skated in Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

There is also a noticeable rise in the number of half Japanese athletes who are starting to make a name for themselves in the western sporting community. An example would be Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, a 16-year-old runner who just broke Usain Bolt’s record. Brown was born to a Japanese mom and a Ghanian father. He is currently gaining more popularity as part of Japan’s team who will be competing in Beijing.

Another half-Japanese, half-Nigerian athlete is baseball player Rui Okoye. At a young age of 18, he has already gained popularity all over Japan. Having played for Kanto Daiichi high school in the past, he has quickly become a sensation at the National High School Championship. Another Olympic medalist is Koji Murofushi, who is born to a Japanese father and a Romanian mother. Okoye and Murofoshi are considered to be two of the best biracial Japanese athletes in the latest years.

However, Japanese athletes are not required to be biracial to gain success. There are also several examples of pure-blooded Japanese who have made a name for themselves in the western sporting arena. This article will dive into Kazuhisa Makita, a Japanese baseball player who has gained worldwide acclaim.

A Brief Background on Kazuhisa Makita’s Early Life

Kazuhisa Makita is a professional baseball player. There are not a lot of accounts on Kazuhisa’s youth. Hence, it is hard to confirm if he comes from a well-off or middle-class family. There are also little accounts of how he started playing baseball as an amateur. What is known about Kazuhisa Makita is that he is currently 33 years old given that his birthday is November 10, 1984.

By みやっち [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Kazuhisa Makita is currently known as the professional baseball pitcher for the San Diego Padres of the prestigious Major League Baseball (which is commonly referred to as MLB). Prior to his engagement in the MLB, he previously played for the Saitama Seibu Lions under the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) League.

The first records of Makita’s football career go back to his college days. He played collegiate level baseball at Heisei Kokusai University but did not stand out enough to be drafted out of college. His next gig in the playing field would be playing for Nippon Express, as part of the Japanese industrial leagues.

Kazuhisa Makita’s baseball career should serve as an inspiration for any person who struggles with achieving their goal. It took Kazuhisa Masita several years after college before being selected to play professional baseball, yet he did not lose hope. His perseverance paid off in the end as the Saitama Seibu Lions chose him as with their second pick in 2010, during the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft.

The Beginning of Kazuhisa Makita’s Professional Baseball Career

Prior to playing for the Saitama Seibu Lions, Makita has only competed at semi-professional level. Yet, his performance was applauded by baseball fans. Makita played a total of seven seasons with the Saitama Seibu Lions. His career record totals to 2.83 earned run average (which is referred to by baseball enthusiasts as ERA). His records show an astounding 514 strikeouts and 206 walks, in 921 innings.

His incredible performance in the professional baseball league was immediately acknowledged. In fact, Makita was awarded as the Pacific League Rookie of the Year for the 2011 season. During this year, he was able to reach a record of 22 saves, and an ERA of 2.61 during 55 games.

Only two seasons after being drafted in 2010, Makita has already proven himself to be a popular household name. Despite playing with a lot of seasoned players, Makita was already named as the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star during his first playing year in 2013. Within two years, he received the same award after the 2013 playing season.

Seven years after being drafted to play professional baseball in Japan, Makita once again proved himself to be an excellent pitcher by gaining recognition from the international baseball community. December 1 of 2017 was a monumental day for Makita’s baseball career. It was during this time that the Saitama Lions formally announced Makita will be made available to play for Major League Baseball. In the announcement, it was declared that he would be joining one of MLB’s teams before the end of the year.

While no announcement was made by the end of 2017, Makita’s affiliation to the San Diego Padres was formalized on January 6 of 2018. In this momentous day, Kazuhisa Makita signed a two-year contract to play in the Major League Baseball with the San Diego Padres.

Kazuhisa Makita’s Career Expansion Outside of Japan

By the time Makita was drafted in the MLB, he was already a popular name for worldwide baseball fanatics. Prior to playing for the United States’ MLB, he has already competed in several international competitions with much acclaim.

By Frederick Dennstedt from los angeles, usa (Dodger Stadium) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Makita’s first exposure outside of the Japanese professional baseball scene was when he played for  Japan’s national baseball team during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. During the following year, 2014, he played in MLB Japan All-Star Series where he was able to garner more attention.

In 2015, Makita was able to compete in some exhibition series where Japan played against Europe. During the same year, in 2015, he also played for the WBSC Premier. His most recent achievement was being able to compete in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. While he only played as a relief pitcher, the event was able to once again put the spot on Makita’s excellent sportsmanship.

A Look Into Statistics: Kazuhisa Makita’s Playing Style and Records

In 2014, Makita garnered attention as one of four pitchers who combined to throw a no-hitter for Samurai Japan. During this season, he played against a team of Major League players in the Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series at the Tokyo Dome.

Of course, there is no doubt that Makita is an extremely talented pitcher. This was a fact that was well known to the important names in the baseball industry and fans all over the world. With a rather uncommon submarine delivery, Makita throws an astounding fastball which sits at an average of 80 mph. On his luckier days, his fastball can range up to 84-85 mph.

Like plenty of baseball players (or any athlete for that matter), Makita's pacing during games is very quick. It only takes Makita an approximate of eight seconds between pitches based on his records in 2016. This astounding feat makes Makita the fastest pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball for that season.

His playing style is called a “submarine” by baseball aficionados. This move is described to be a movement where the ball is released just above the ground, with the torso bent at a right angle. After signing a 12 months contract to play for the Padres, Kazuhisa Makita will become the Majors' first true submariner. Players who have joined the team in the past are usually sidearmers, and previous submariners would not be able to compare to Makita’s playing prowess. Sports analysts have claimed that Makita’s ball flight plays are too incredible that opponents would to have to change their swing to match the power of his pitch.

Makita’s pitch is often associated by baseball fanatics to what is called a Bugs Bunny curve. He justifies this move by claiming that he wants to confuse opponents’ batters as the focus on the rather low range. This move allows risers to mistakenly swing and miss. Of course, the continuing play will matter based on how hitters will dictate the scouting report.

Since baseball is a team sport, having a sense of teamwork is important - this applies as well to Kazuhisa Makita. Prior to games, spectators would always find Makita with his catchers and pitching coaches. They would usually form a huddle before games, and once again after.

A major factor which makes Makita a great player is how he values continuous improvement. This is evident in the huddle discussions he conducts with his team. To add, his notes usually grows longer and longer as the season unfolds to make sure that he is able to catch points for improvement. His team values Makita and considers him an asset as is the point person for discussions on gameplay.

There is also an interesting dynamic between Makita and his team. As the pitcher, he serves a pivotal role in the team. Plenty of their team discussions tend to revolve around his own gameplay. The rationale for this is that the team is more focused on understanding Makita’s gameplay, rather than Makita learning the hitter’s gameplay.

As mentioned earlier, Makita’s signature pitch is an unconventional submarine. This move is so unique in the way he throws and the team considers this as an advantage rather than a threat. His pitch is extremely dominant even back when he was playing professionally in Japan. His teammates appreciate and understand his unique style of playing and have disregarded any efforts to make him fit into their expected playing style.

Building an effective method of communication with the catchers is also part of Makita’s tools for success. He is adamant about being able to play harmoniously with his team’s catchers to the point where after each and every game after, the discuss what worked and what didn't work - including how Makita could have pitched better. He finds that these exchange of ideas allow both parties to be better players.