It looks like the Cologne Cardinals will bring the
first a Japanese player to the German Bundesliga (edit: quite a few Japanese readers noted that there have been a number of Japanese players in Germany before. I didn’t know that and apologize.).
A twitter friend send me the pitcure of an article (which can be found online here, but beware, it’s all Japanese) which said that 18 year old pitcher Ryusei Hirotaka of Oki Gakuen High School in Fukuoka will join the Cologne Cardinals for the 2014 season. The article states that his school played against a high school team team from Cologne in Japan this spring and at that time he was asked by someone accompanying the Cologne team, whether he would be interested in coming to Germany to play for the Cardinals.
Hirotaka wants to become a sports trainer and looks to improve his German skills so he can be a translator at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While he was in middle school he took part in a tour with a team representing Fukuoka alongside Yudai Mori, who is now with Japan Series winner Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He was a bench player for Oki Gakuen last year, wearing number 11. Unfortunately Hirotaka hurt his right elbow this spring and was forced to watch his team from the stands and spend his last high school summer on the sidelines. Oki Gakuen was eliminated in the 4th round of the Fukuoka tournament.
(Just to put the school into perspective, Oki Gakuen looks like they’ve never made it to the Koushien tournaments. The closest seems to have been in 2008 when they lost the final game of the Fukuoka qualifiers vs Iizuka Shogyo 1-6). It also looks like a very young baseball program, having been established in 1980.)
Hirotaka came over to Cologne for a test training in September and decided to give it a try. He looks like he’s a bit worried about learning German, which, quite frankly, I can totally understand.
He will finish high school in March 2014 and will the report to Cologne to start the season with the Cards. I’m really looking forward to seeing him pitch.