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Okoye is taking the right steps towards success with giants

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Yomiuri Shimbun Photos
Louis Okoye of the Yomiuri Giants gets a hit against the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome on April 24.

Louis Okoye of the Yomiuri Giants has put things in order in his first chance to play this season.

The ninth-year player said a Yomiuri front office manager told the Nigerian-Japanese part-time player last year that his inability to hit to right field was the reason he was being sent to the farm team.

The right-handed Okoye has been working on that aspect of his hitting, and while not all of his hits are coming in the opposite field, the Giants outfielder said he’s much more comfortable at the plate.

“I went to minors and practiced a lot, and now I miss it sometimes, but that’s true [mostly] good,” Okoye told The Japan News in English about hitting right field during an interview at Tokyo Dome on April 24.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Okoye, who was the first pick of the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles in the 2015 draft, is hitting .286 through the first month-plus of the season prior to Tuesday night’s action. But he has struggled in the professional game.

The 26-year-old brought speed and a powerful arm to Rakuten as a rookie, but his offensive production didn’t quite match the hype.

So Okoye was left unprotected on the active player roster, and Yomiuri plucked him from the Eagles in time for the 2023 season.

Okoye had even seriously considered leaving the game, but a change of scenery last year and a strong spring earned him a roster spot from Opening Day.

Then the final straw came with the minors.

“This is a [different] League, so last year I was confused,” the outfielder said that was part of the reason for his mediocre results in 2023.

“Because they were new pitchers, and first hitters,” said Okoye, who had to do a lot of guessing at the plate and finished last season at .235 with two home runs and seven doubles over 127 games. He also lost some of his instincts on the defensive end.

“I had no data, so I was just confused,” he said.

However, Okoye said he is now growing in many facets as a member of the Giants.

“When I was younger, my body was powerful and there was no thinking,” he said. “But now I’m 26 years old, and this year I’m 27. I’m getting ready for a competition — [there’s] stretching and training, [I have] a massage.

“[And] now it is thinking [about] how to play the game.”

These are all steps in the right direction for Okoye, who appears to be making strides.



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