Koji Uehara is a 38-year-old Japanese baseball pitcher who currently plays for world champions Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball in the United States.
As a young man, the future World Series winner dreamed of being a teacher and worked in various jobs, including a stint as a security guard, before becoming a pitching sensation during his time at university.
Drafted with the first overall pick in 1998 by the Yomiuri Giants in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Uehara had a fantastic rookie season, breaking the all-time record for wins by a rookie with 15, as well as being named Rookie of the Year and receiving the prestigious Eiji Sawamura award, presented annually to the best starting pitcher in the NPB.
In nine seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, Uehara established himself as one of the premier pitchers in Japanese baseball history, being selected to eight NPB All-Star teams as well as winning two pitcher MVP awards and another Eiji Sawamura award.
Uehara ended his NPB career with a win-loss record of 112-62 and amassed an ERA of 3.01 with 1,376 strikeouts. His stellar performances helped his Giants team win two NPB titles, and he also helped the Japanese baseball team secure a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics and a gold medal in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Uehara made his long-awaited transition to the MLB when he signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009.
Unfortunately for the Japanese ace, nagging injuries and spells of poor form saw him make little impact in his first years in America, resulting in a trade to the Texas Rangers and ultimately a fateful move to the Boston Red Sox in 2012.
Cast in a supporting role early in the 2013 season, Uehara was thrust into the spotlight following season-ending injuries to several Red Sox pitchers.
The veteran rose to the occasion, going on to have one of the best seasons by a relief pitcher in MLB history. He went an incredible 34½ innings without giving up an earned run, striking out 37 batters in a row on his way to a league-leading 1.09 ERA, a stikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.22 and a WHIP of 0.57, the lowest ever for a pitcher with at least 40 innings.
Despite his stunning regular season, Uehera’s finest moments came in the Red Sox’s march to the World Series.
Acting as closer, fan favourite Uehara was named MVP of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and pitched the final out as the Red Sox closed out a 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2013 World Series at historic Fenway Park.
It’s no surprise that this record-setting pitcher stands as one of the candidates for the FOX ASIA award as he is a source of pride for all Asian baseball fans across the globe!
Want to vote for Koji Uehara for ASIA? Head over to this link! - foxsportsasia.com/asia