Player of the Week: Yuki Onodora

Chase Yutzy, Weather Vane student newspaper

First-year Yuki Onodora
First-year Yuki Onodora (Photo by Chelsie Gordon)

The distance between Ebetusu, Japan and Harrisonburg, Virginia is roughly 10,000 miles. First-year Yuki Onodora is worlds away from what the place he calls home, but he is adjusting well. He says, “The transition is not difficult; I like the people and the food.”

It is not common for a small Division III college like EMU to have someone come from so far away to play a sport, but Onodora is here and he is ready to do it like “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

Baseball runs in his blood; it has become a part of who he is. He has a passion for the game that glows within him, and his dedication to the sport shows when he is perfecting his pitching form. Onodora says, “Yeah, I have a passion for baseball. I want to be a pro baseball player in Japan.”

There is more to his life than baseball, though. Says Onodora, “I want to experience other things I can’t experience in Japan. Like Halloween, we don’t do anything for it in Japan. And I want to get good friends in America.” Maybe this year he will put on the costume of Dice-K and light up the ODAC.

Most people who heard about Onodora’s plans to go to a small school in a small city were surprised or confused. However, he has a good reason for coming here. His idol, Naoya Washiya, an outfielder, did the same, coming from Japan to the U.S. to play baseball. Onodora’s comments on Washiya, “I have respect for him. He plays for the Nationals. He used to go to Community college in California. Last August, I met him and was inspired.”

Onodora came here to improve his baseball skills, and to improve his chances and experiences in hopes that it will help his chances at going pro in Japan. During his time in America, he wants “To get better English and improve baseball skill.”

If you go to the gym often enough you will see Onodora throwing an invisible baseball at a mirror. He says it is a training technique that he uses to make his form feel routine. According to Onodora, “It improves my form. It adapts the muscle to pitching form.”

It is not just his training that people might not be used to; his pitching might seem unusual when compared to typical pitches from other players in the U.S. People do not see a pitcher with such jerky movements every day.

“I think my form is ordinary for Japan, but it’s different from America,” explains Onodora. It could work to his advantage. When hitters are not used to this type of a delivery, it can confuse them and cause them to be less effective until they figure it out.

If you can not think of any of the many reasons to go to a baseball game at EMU, go to see Onodora do what he does best. He will be fun to watch this year. His unique delivery and intimidating expressions will make the games he is in interesting.

In 10 years, who knows? You could say you saw the great Yuki Onodora throw fire for the Royals.