Hideo Nomo

From Academic Kids

Hideo Nomo (野茂 英雄 Nomo Hideo, born August 31, 1968) is a right-handed pitcher who has achieved success both in Japan and the United States. He currently pitches for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Nomo was on the silver medal winning Japanese baseball team at the 1988 Olympics, and the Kintetsu Buffaloes drafted him in 1989. Nomo debuted with them in 1990 and was an immediate success, going 18-8 but more impressively striking out 287 hitters in just 235 innings. The strikeout numbers are attributed to his unorthodox wind-up, where he turns his back to the hitter, raises his pivot leg, and freezes for a second before throwing. The windup gave him the nickname "Tornado". In his first 4 seasons, Nomo was as consistent, and consistently good, as any pitcher in Japanese baseball, winning 17 or 18 games each year. His fifth season in 1994 was marred by a shoulder injury and only netted him 8 wins.

Nomo was becoming one of the most popular baseball players in Japan but after the '94 season, Nomo got into a contract dispute with team management. The Buffaloes rebuffed Nomo's demands to have a contract agent and multi-year contract. This led to him heading stateside, where in February of 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a contract. After a month in the minors, necessitated by a season shortened by a player's strike, he became the first Japanese-born Japanese Leaguer to appear in a major league game on May 2. The pressure on him would be tremendous, and Japanese media and fans appeared in large numbers in games he started. Nomo's games were regularly broadcast live to Japan, despite the fact most people would be waking up when he started games. Nomo more than lived up to their expectations.

The tornado delivery that baffled batters in Japan had the same effect on stateside hitters, and he led the league in strikeouts (while finishing second in walks) and was second with a 2.54 earned run average. He also started that year's All-Star Game, striking out 3 of the 6 batters he faced. But he only barely won National League Rookie of the Year honours that year over future MVP Chipper Jones, as most voters felt that his Japanese success made him anything but a rookie, although by major league rules he was one. Nomo only dropped slightly in 1996 as he had another fine season, which was capped by a no-hitter in the unlikeliest of places, Denver's Coors Field, a park which is essentially a pitcher's hell due to its high elevation. Nomo remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field.

As batters caught on to his delivery, his effectiveness waned somewhat in 1997, although he still went 14-12, and then crashed down on him in 1998 when he started the year 2-7 and earned a trade to the New York Mets, where he wasn't much better and got released. He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1999 and made three starts for their AAA minor league team, refused further starts in the minor leagues, and got a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he went 12-8 and had a okay season, but the Brewers waived him after contract issues. The Philadelphia Phillies claimed him, then granted him free agency only 24 hours later after more contract issues. Finally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 2000, the story was the same, he had a decent season and got released again.

He signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2001 and had a decent season again, but it started off with a bang, as he threw his second no-hitter in his Sox debut against the Baltimore Orioles. As in the case of his previous no-hitter, this one was the first ever thrown in the park where he was pitching, in this case Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He also led the league in strikeouts for the first time since his first American campaign. A free agent after the end of the year, Nomo returned to where it all began stateside with the Dodgers in 2002, and ended up having his best season since 1996, when he finished with a solid 16-6 and a low 3.39 ERA, finally regaining the form he brought from Japan.

Nomo has over 100 wins stateside, to go along with 78 in Japan. Nomo's success helped inspire other stars from Japan such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui to come over to the States as well.

However, Nomo began to struggle again. Before the start of spring training for 2005, Nomo was signed by the low budget and mediocre Tampa Bay Devil Rays to a one-year minor-league contract, worth $800,000 if he makes the major league roster, plus the possibility of an additional $700,000 in performance bonuses.

Nomo established Nomo Baseball Club, a non-profit amateur baseball team in Sakai, Osaka, where he played for three years up until he made a debut in Japanese professional baseball to help promote amateur baseball and to give young players opportunities. Although over 154,000 players join high school level baseball, most of them lose places to play baseball because of Japan's economic decline and poor farm system of professional baseball in Japan. His motive to establish this team is based on his own experience of not being a top prospect in his high school years and his belief that he wouldn't be make it in pro ball without amateur baseball days.

External link

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