So who is Kensuke Tanaka? Well, his story is an interesting one.
Tanaka was a star in his native Japan after being named a Gold Glove winner 5 times, along with being named the best overall second baseman 4 times. He left behind a $2.7 million salary in his native country to pursue a dream of playing Major League Baseball, and decided to come to the United States and try to make it on the San Francisco Giants.
With a disappointing .229 batting average in Spring Training and a full roster in San Francisco, AAA Fresno would be the destination to start the season for Kensuke. In an interview with David Bataller at the ABC affiliate in Fresno this last May, Tanaka shed some light on his decision to play for the Giants: “I was able to accomplish many things in Japan, but to a certain extent,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I wanted to take it a step further. I really felt like starting a second baseball career here.”
Tanaka played well at Fresno, hitting .330 with 20 SB’s and a very respectable .392 OBP. However he had double-digit errors in the field, and a move from 2nd base to left field came rather recently. ”I think I just need to get the hang of everything,” Tanaka said confidently. “I believe I still need to adjust and adapt to the playing style here.” This may have been the perfect storm for Tanaka and the Giants.
With San Francisco struggling mightily and a plethora of injuries plaguing the big league club, the Giants made a move to bring up Tanaka on July 9th. That move paid off in the 1st game of a four game set against the Padres Thursday night. Tanaka went 2-4 and knocked in the game tying run with a bases loaded single in the 6th, and stole 2nd base after a leadoff single in the 8th inning, eventually scoring what would prove to be the winning run.
In post game interviews via Andrew Baggarly at CSN Bay Area, the Giants clubhouse and manager Bruce Bochy praised Tanaka’s effort: “He looks comfortable, I tell you,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what’s impressive. It’s nice to get a shot in the arm, which he’s given us. He’s played a few games and played well. He’s thrown out good at-bats. He’s putting the ball in play.”
Kensuke Tanaka is probably not the savior for this Giants squad, in fact that’s a safe bet and certainly expecting too much. But sometimes it just takes a spark and maybe, just maybe, that infectious smile and energy from Tanaka will rub off on this team in a positive way.
“I was able to show my strengths in baseball, what I’m good at,” said Tanaka post game through an interpreter, “I was able to do a little something for the team today.” Either way, it is nice to see Tanaka accomplishing his goal of playing in the Majors and showing us what made him a star in Japan.