IF playing basketball is a passion for Pinoys, baseball, without a doubt, is closest to the heart of Japanese athletes.
In fact, Japanese baseball players had become so skillful in the game that several of their players now play for the US Major League in baseball.
So it’s not surprising that Keiji Katayama, a full-blooded Japanese, learned to love baseball at a young age and still play the game even now that he is on his mid-thirties.
But what was surprising is Keiji’s affinity with Pinoy baseballers, and an equally-consuming passion to share his expertise of the game to young Filipinos.
At 36 years old, Keiji, who hails from Himeji City, Hyogo in Japan, remains active in playing baseball and in fact, played for Mikey Romero’s champion team Manila Sharks, which he helped win a few championships as one of its mainstays.
He is currently a member of the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association Seniors’ multi-titled team owned by the Navaseros, which saw action in the 1st PSC Chairman Baseball Classic, where the amiable Japanese showcased his skills as a hitter and a second baseman.
Keiji said he wants to help Philab win the title and added that he enjoys playing with teammates such as former national players like Fulgencio Rances,Saxon Omanda,Charlie Labrador,Francis Candela,Jonas Ponce,Ruel Batuto,Joel Orillana among others and coaches Hashim Omandac and Roel Empacis.
Keiji started playing baseball as an elementary student at Mega Club as a pitcher in prefectural tournaments representing Himeji City. Later, he pitched for Nada Junior High School baseball Club and was part of the team that won three championships in Junior competitions in the city followed by a stint as a shortstop in Nishi High School club.
As one of the finest overall players in the prefecture, he also played as a second baseman of the powerhouse Kansai University Baseball Club.
Keiji’s dream to become a professional player in Japan, however, was put on hold when he moved here in the Philippines to work as a consultant for Mizuno. After which, he transferred to the Rawlings Division where he is currently its Manager of Research and Development.
While working, Keiji still found time to play baseball and train some promising young players, which endeared him to Filipino baseball officials and baseball enthusiasts.
Nowadays, Keiji fondly describes himself as a Pinoy and added that he dreams of one day uplift Philippine baseball as he acknowledged that Filipino baseball players have a natural talent for the game and like the Japanese, can become world-class players.
Through this end, Keiji said he sees himself in the near future as a coach or a team manager or perhaps a patron of the sports, especially to young kids.
Certainly, this Japanese is a welcome addition to Philippine baseball and Philippine sports in general.