Koji Uehara was, by any measure, the Red Sox's best relief pitcher this season. Indeed, only two Boston starters accumulated a higher WAR than Uehara, who finished the regular season with a 1.09 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched—mostly as the third-string closer after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. While he may share a nationality with former Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, though, his road to the majors was considerably different that Dice-K's.
Matsuzaka made his reputation at Koshien, Japan's national megatournament, when he threw almost 400 pitches in two days. Uehara never participated in Koshien. When he was young, Uehara's biggest career goal was possibly being a high school physical education teacher. Baseball didn't seem like a viable career path for him at the time.
From Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston:
Japan has a rigorous exam system for incoming university students. Uehara did not pass his exam. He spent the next year studying in advance of retaking the test. "It was a very difficult year," he said, "because I had to study all the time."
To make ends meet, he said through Matsumoto, he took the job as a security guard. Baseball? "I wasn't even playing at that point," he said. "My dream was to teach."
But he did read Ryan's "bible," and from it picked up some weight-training techniques that paid off in added strength when he entered Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences, and returned to playing.
"My college was not really a baseball school," Uehara said, "so the manager told us just choose whatever position you want to play. The last year in high school, I pitched five innings and I thought it was fun. I thought pitching would be fun."
Also fun? Going to the MLB playoffs for the third straight season, as Uehara is. That sure beats watching high school kids unenthusiastically play sports.
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