(Reuters) – Five baseball players to look out for in the Tokyo Olympics:
KIM HYUN-SOO (SOUTH KOREA)
Kim, 33, struggled to produce offensively after joining Major League Baseball (MLB) for two seasons in Baltimore and Philadelphia. But when he returned to the Korean league with the LG Twins for the past four years, the outfielder regained his form, including 33 runs in over 35 games to start this year. Kim delivered key hits when Korea won gold in 2008 and was the Most Valuable Player at the 2015 World Championships.
IAN KINSLER (ISRAEL)
The veteran second baseman, who has Jewish heritage and previously competed for Team USA, traveled to Israel shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to secure citizenship. He played on five MLB teams, including Texas and Detroit, over a 14-year career, winning a World Series, two Gold Gloves and four All-Star selections. The awards make Kinsler, 38, one of the most prominent western players in Tokyo.
“Having this guy in the clubhouse is a great addition to his skills in the field,” Israel manager Eric Holtz told Reuters.
HAYATO SAKAMOTO (JAPAN)
The Samurai Japan national team is made up of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) players, and the Yomiuri Giants shortstop is among the stars. He won the Central League NPB Most Valuable Player award in 2019 after hitting 40 home runs. Sakamoto, 32, added 19 last year while competing in 65 runs. He injured his hand in May and suffered a mild COVID-19 infection last year.
SEIYKA SUZUKI (JAPAN)
The outfielder led the offensive for Samurai Japan when they won gold at the 2019 World Championships. His contributions included nine goals and 13 drivers. Attention will be drawn to Suzuki, 26, who plays for Hiroshima Toyo Carp from NPB, as he is a candidate for next season’s move to MLB.
ATURO REYES (MEXICO)
Three big starts from the right-handed pitcher brought Mexico to an Olympic course during a 2019 qualifier. Now he will prove that it was not a coincidence. The US-born 29-year-old showed his brilliance over seven minor league seasons, including 104 strikeouts in 2014, but he hasn’t shown enough to make it into the MLB.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Ken Ferris)