Home » Sports » Hideki Okajima, a Former Boston Red Sox, Had a Unique Pitching Motion That was Inspired by a Character in Yoishi Takashi’s Manga “Ace!”
Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima, a Former Boston Red Sox, Had a Unique Pitching Motion That was Inspired by a Character in Yoishi Takashi’s Manga “Ace!”

Hideki Okajima is a former professional baseball pitcher from Japan. Okajima pitched in Nippon Professional Baseball for the Yomiuri Giants, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and Yokohama DeNA BayStars, as well as Major League Baseball for the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. But what is the inspiration for Hideki Okajima’s unique pitching motion?

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima’s distinctive pitching motion was inspired by a character in Yoishi Takashi’s manga “Ace!” Okajima believed the motion would make him throw harder.

Who is Hideki Okajima?

Hideki Okajima was born in Fushimi-Ku, Kyoto, Japan, on December 25, 1975. He is now a member of the Boston Red Sox. Okajima is recognized for his unique pitching method, in which he lowers his head and jerks it toward third base as he delivers the ball.
Okajima refers to Masumi Kuwata as his Master. Yuka Kurihara, a sports announcer, is Okajima’s wife, with whom he has three sons and a daughter. He met his wife at a champagne/beer celebration following his Yomiuri Giants’ victory in the 2000 Japan Series. (Source: Kiddle)

Hideki Okajima’s Pitching Style

Okajima had a peculiar throwing motion in which he turned his head downwards shortly before releasing the ball and yanked it hard toward third base after release. These extra movements looked to enhance the velocity of his pitches as they torqued his torso toward home plate, apparently concealing his pitches and causing batters to swing early. Okajima is reported to have imitated a pitcher in Yoichi Takahashi’s manga who torqued his head so hard after each pitch that his hat flew off.

I was attempting to imitate the motion. I expected it to make me throw harder.

Hideki Okajima, Baseball Pitcher

After a local variation of the rock-paper-scissors game, some Japanese dubbed this pitching form Looking the Other Way. Various Japanese trainers, including Tsuneo Horiuchi, initially attempted to modify Okajima’s pitching form. This all came to an end, though, when Yoshitaka Katori of the Yomiuri Giants adopted his pitching technique. Okajima was prone to episodes of recklessness early on, even being booed in his home stadium for his lack of control. Okajima was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters after the 2005 season, where he modified his pitching form and regained reasonable control.

Okajima’s pitches have lower-than-average velocity, requiring him to establish a more consistent release point to control them effectively. His fastball was typically 85-89 mph, rarely exceeding 90 mph. In Japan, his outward weapon was a sharp rainbow curveball in the 70-75 mph area that left-handed hitters struggled to hit. He also threw a circle changeup, a forkball that averaged 80-84 mph, and a changeup that averaged 82-84 mph.

After joining the Red Sox, Okajima demonstrated such pinpoint accuracy that former colleague Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees was astounded since he had never believed Okajima could develop such excellent control since their time together in Japan. Okajima’s success in the major leagues against several batters in a single appearance was a shift from his experience in Japan, where he was recognized as a situational lefty sent in to face one left-handed batter in critical late-game scenarios.

During a rainout on April 15, 2007, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell altered Okajima’s changeup delivery. As a result, bullpen coach Gary Tuck called the changeup with screwball motion the Okie-Dokie. As of May 10, 2007, the Okie-Dokie was thrown for strikes 79% of the time, with batters swinging through the pitch 14 times out of 30. (Source: Kiddle)

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