Kiyomiya caps 1st All-Star outing with ‘sayonara’ HR

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Pacific League’s Kotaro Kiyomiya watches his game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Fukuoka.

FUKUOKA — For the first time in three years, there were no restrictions on attendance for Japan pro baseball’s All-Star series, and the Pacific League’s Kotaro Kiyomiya gave the 35,534 fans packed into Fukuoka PayPay Dome on Tuesday night a game to remember.

The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters lefty slugger blasted a two-out “sayonara” home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Hiroshima Carp right-hander Masato Morishita to give the PL a 3-2 victory over the Central League in the first of the two-game series.

“I was definitely aiming for a home run,” said Kiyomiya, who was named the MVP in his first All-Star appearance. “He kept throwing fastballs, and I responded with an all-out swing.”

Kiyomiya scooped a low fastball into the home run terrace beyond the fence in left-center field, sending the crowd into a frenzy and leading his teammates to mob him at home plate.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kotaro Kiyomiya, center, is mobbed by Pacific League teammates after homering in the bottom of the ninth to give the PL a 3-2 win.

The 23-year-old has been in the spotlight since turning pro as a highly sought-after hitter after belting a record 111 home runs at Waseda Jitsugyo High School. Seven teams made him their first-round selection in the 2017 draft, with the Fighters winning out in a lottery.

On the path to what appeared to be certain stardom, Kiyomiya was sidetracked by a series of injuries, including a broken right hand in his second season. He spent all of last season without being called up from the minors.

This season, under new manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo, he has finally started to bloom. Inserted into the clean-up spot, Kiyomiya already has a career-high 11 home runs.

Prior to heading to Fukuoka, Shinjo told his All-Stars to aim for winning the MVP award as a means of motivating them. Kiyomiya took the challenge to heart, coming through with the first game-ending home run in an official game of his career.

Hotaka Yamakawa of the Seibu Lions also hit a solo home run for the PL, which tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth inning on an RBI single by the Orix Buffaloes’ Yuma Mune. Dayan Viciedo of the Chunichi Dragons homered for the CL.

The second game of the series was to be played Wednesday night at Matsuyama’s Botchan Stadium. The Pacific League leads the all-time series 87-80 with 11 ties.