Have arm, will travel; Nading now pitching in Japan
The 26-year-old has been with the team since March, used as a reliever in late-game situations. He’s happy he made the move and believes it was the right decision to extend his career.
“Before coming to Japan I was very nervous to make such a big decision at this point of my career, but once I landed I was greeted with open arms and became very comfortable,” he told me. “New country, new culture and new opportunities to succeed in the game I love, it’s more than I could ask for.”
Nading, of East High fame, had pitched professionally in the minor leagues for a last few years, including a stint last year at extended spring training with the Boston Red Sox.
Last November he attended a two-day tryout for Japanese scouts in Fresno, Calif., where he threw well enough to get drafted by the Ishikawa Million Stars. Nading is probably the only Alaska baseball player to be drafted by the MLB and BCL in Japan.
The 6-foot-5 Alaskan has changed his delivery, throwing more side arm as opposed to over the top like he used to.
“I have become comfortable and committed to it,” he said. “I have been doing well. I am as good as I can be to show the major leagues I can compete with the best here in Japan.”
The game is the same, but different.
The pitching mounds feature soft sand, rather than hard dirt. There is more small-ball strategy, with a bunt, hit and run or stolen base attempt each inning. They practice six hours, not two.
The hitters have a different approach.
“Japanese hitters aren’t trying to hit home runs every swing like American players,” he said. “They just look to make contact and force the defense to make plays.”
Japanese pitchers also throw a ton on the side.
“I have witnesses teammates throw up to 160-pitch bullpens back-to-back days, something you would never see in America,” he said.
And the fans don’t boo or leave early.
“Every game sounds like the World Cup with cheering sections of trumpets and drums and people chanting every single pitch,” Nading said. “The Japanese live for baseball. Fans here don’t worry about beating traffic; they stick around to the last pitch and then for another hour afterwards to greet us with gifts and food and just to say ‘Good job.’”