Playing at Rogers Centre a dream come true for Fujie and his family
September 24, 2019
By J.P. Antonacci
Canadian Baseball Network
Yukihiro and Yukiko Fujie had front row seats and they still couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing – their son Yosuke playing baseball on a major league field.
“Of course, it’s the first time for that. (We are) kind of in a dream all the time,” Yukiko said after Yosuke and his Team Maroon teammates beat Team Black 5-1 at Tournament 12 in Toronto on Friday.
Yosuke went 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI, with Yukiko recording her son’s every move on a handheld camcorder.
Once they’re back home in Mission, BC, the proud parents might replay one moment more than any other – Yosuke diving head first to score from second on a single to left field, narrowly avoiding the tag by skimming the plate with his left hand.
“It was a really bang-bang play,” Yosuke said. “I knew when the catcher caught the ball that I had to slide from the outside of the plate and just get my hand right in there.”
Yosuke said that over the past year, his coaches with the Fraser Valley Cardinals of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League have taught him drills and conditioning exercises to “get my feet moving.” Gradually he saw his speed increase, such that at T12 he was legging out ground balls for infield singles.
“He has quick movement – that is his best thing,” said Yukiko.
As a child, she explained, Yosuke always wanted to play ball in the yard with his father and older brother Kodai.
“I was coaching him on a local baseball team,” Yukihiro said. “He’s always been crazy for baseball. This is a dream come true. It’s so exciting.”
Kodai’s university schedule meant he couldn’t be in Toronto to watch his brother take part in the annual scouting showcase.
“He really wished to come here,” Yukiko said.
Yosuke had tried out twice previously for T12, just missing the cut. The news that he made it this year was cause for celebration at home.
“Three times he tried out, so it’s so exciting,” said Yukiko. “This is the best experience for him, for us – for all of us.”
Yosuke said stepping onto the Rogers Centre field for the first time was awe-inspiring.
“At first, the field’s big, there are a lot of scouts and a lot of pressure, and I was a little nervous,” he said. “But after a few innings, I got used to my teammates and the pitching.”
Facing unfamiliar pitchers who were bringing heat and breaking off tough curves, Yosuke held his own in the batter’s box, using his quick, compact swing to make solid contact.
“The off-speed stuff is pretty good, so I just had to make adjustments to that,” he said.
Playing on turf was another adjustment for the young infielder, who turns 17 in October.
“Turf skips more, so I have to play more back and keep moving more forward than on normal grass,” he said.
“First I got to meet the other infielders and get to know each other, so the relationship on the field will be better.”
Yosuke said having “smooth hands” is one key to success at shortstop.
“From the ball to the glove to my hand, it’s just one motion, rather than two or three,” he said. “One motion, nice and smooth.”
He demonstrated those smooth hands on Friday when he fielded a ground ball with the balls loaded and two outs, calmly throwing to second to end the threat.
“In those situations, I just try to stay calm and think about positive things that could happen so my teammates will be happy,” he said. “I try not to think negative, because I won’t get my body moving as well. Try to think positive so my body gets going.”
Yosuke had dabbled at shortstop in past seasons, but until this year he was best known as a catcher with an above-average pop time and solid fundamentals. His coaches and parents encouraged him to continue as a catcher, but Yosuke decided to focus on being an infielder like his favourite MLB player, Javier Baez.
“I like the way he plays the game, hitting and defense-wise. He hustles and plays clean,” Yosuke said.
He put a lot of thought into the position switch, and a year later says he has no regrets.
“It was a pretty big decision for me. It was hard. I talked to my coaches, teammates. I could’ve done both but I like to concentrate on one thing,” he said.
“I thought it was a bit risky at times, because if I lose what I have right now, if I don’t catch for a while, it’s going to be really hard to come back. And shortstop is really different from catching. I did miss it after I quit, but I spent the last year at shortstop and I’m having a great time there.”
Yosuke’s parents admitted to some nerves when he announced that he was leaving catching behind.
“He likes shortstop, but he did very good as a catcher before. So everybody knew him as a catcher, not as a shortstop. So this is a very big challenge for him,” Yukiko said. “Many coaches asked him to keep going both ways, but he wants to focus on only one position.”
Watching their son excel at shortstop over the past year has reassured Yukihiro and Yukiko that Yosuke is on the right path.
“He’s like a magnet to the ball,” Yukiko said, smiling.
“He’s very fond to play as a shortstop, so that’s the best way to go forward. Just to trust him – he likes it, so that’s okay.”
Yosuke said having his parents in his corner means the world to him.
“It’s pretty great. They support me, not just in baseball but as a normal teenager,” he said.
“They help me in life, getting rides to games, food. Especially my mom helps me with conditioning. My dad helps me baseball-wise with my skills, practice. From when I was little till now, he helps me whenever I need him. He’s the best coach for me right now.”