Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Raw Japan:

MLB pitches to Kikuchi

Major League Baseball teams are lining up to lure Japanese high school baseball pitcher Yusei Kikuchi across the Pacific to join them in an unprecedented raid on the country's young talent.

Kikuchi, an 18-year-old left-hander from Hanamaki Higashi High School in northern Japan, would be the most coveted young Japanese player to join an MLB team, but he is equally desired by Japan's 12 professional teams.BASEBALL-JAPAN/KIKUCHI

His star rose at the national high school baseball tournament this summer as his 155 kph (96mph) fastball dazzled. Japan's Koshien tournment is a big thing even for non-baseball fans in Japan, as the event catapults high school players into the pro ranks.

Sometimes just one high school star can affect an entire team's fortunes. Masahiro Tanaka, now a starting pitcher for Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles, was a high school phenomenon in the summer of 2006.