Yakult’s Murakami hits 50-HR milestone

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows smiles after hitting his 50th home run at Jingu Stadium on Friday.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami became the youngest player in Japan pro baseball history to reach 50 home runs in a season when he hit the half-century mark against the Chunichi Dragons on Friday night at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. Murakami, at 22 years 7 months, surpassed the previous record for youngest to reach the milestone set by the legendary Sadaharu Oh, who was 24 years 3 months when he hit his 50th home run back in the 1964 season. Murakami’s three-run homer with one out in the third inning off Chunichi starter Yudai Ono lifted the Central League-leading Swallows to a 5-0 victory and made him the first player with 50 home runs since Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien did it in 2013, and the first Japanese player since the Yomiuri Giants’ Hideki Matsui in 2002. “I’m very proud to have reached [Matsui’s] number,” said Murakami, who also wears the same No. 55 as the former Giants slugger. Balentien holds the single-season home run record of 60. Murakami, who belted 12 homers in 23 games in August, has 24 games remaining from Saturday. Murakami also leads the Central League with a .337 batting average and 123 RBIs, putting him on pace to become the first triple crown winner in 18 years.

Jiji Press
Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows hits his 50th home run at Jingu Stadium on Friday.