The Reformed Shortstop

Brad Lefton of the New York Times profiles the new Cub Kosuke Fukudome and traces his career arc from defensively challenged shortstop to rifle-armed outfielder. Fukudome spent the first three years of his professional career trying to master the infield.

Fukudome, who was interviewed for this article in Japanese, quickly replied with a laugh when he was asked what kind of shortstop he was: “The kind that caused my pitchers great anxiety.”

Unlike many poor-fielding infielders who are escorted to left field, Fukudome was converted to right. His strong arm and speed were seen as more appropriate for the higher demands of the position. But no one could have projected what he was about to accomplish. In his first season in right field, with no prior outfield experience, he won the first gold glove of his career.

“Early on, everyone tried to run on me because I was inexperienced out there,” Fukudome recalled proudly. “But I had 14 assists that year and 13 of them were direct throws to the base. In retrospect, right field was the position best suited to take advantage of the strength of my throwing arm. The gold glove came largely because of my high assists total.”

Fukudome also talks about the way his offensive game improved as soon as he was shifted to the outfield.
“I definitely don’t think it’s a coincidence that my batting improved when I shifted to right field,” Fukudome said. “I was always on edge in the infield because you don’t know when the ball’s going to come shooting at you. I found the outfield much more relaxing. Even when the ball’s hit my way, the spatial difference allows me plenty of time to react. The higher relaxation meant a better rhythm, and I was able to take that into the batter’s box."
According to the story, Fukudome will be in Mesa this Thursday, four days before position players are required to show up in Cubs camp.

Let the 楽しみ begin.


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