Hanshin Tigers outfielder Shintaro Yokota (22) revealed on September 3rd that he had a tumor in his brain, which had caused him to remain away from the team since mid-February.
The young left-handed hitter has the physical tools to excel, and has been compared at times to Yoshio Itoi in build and playing style. While he made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster last season, generating buzz among fans and media as one of manager Tomoaki Kanemoto‘s “chohenkaku” (ultra reform) boys, he only lasted 38 games on the top squad, batting a mere .190 and hitting no home runs.
However, Yokota got an invitation to the top squad’s spring training camp in Okinawa with the hopes that he could fight for a spot on the top squad this season. Unfortunately, two weeks into camp, he returned to Osaka with complaints of migraines. From that time until yesterday, there was little to no news reported about his condition.
Finally, on August 30th, his doctors declared that he was in remission, and could resume baseball-related activities. While Yokota could have easily stayed in his hometown in Kagoshima Prefecture and trained there, he said he wanted to use facilities designed for professional players. His aim is to join the team’s second squad spring training next February.
“I was really shocked at first, and was worried about whether or not I would ever play baseball again,” said Yokota. He continued, “The treatments were really hard, but thanks to everyone’s support, I was able to make it back this far. All the help and support from the doctors, nurses, the club, my teammates, as well as letters, books, origami cranes that I got from the fans, it’s all helped me along. I’ve got nothing but thanks for all the support I have been given. I want to get back to running around at Koshien Stadium as soon as possible.”
Team chairman Takano paid him visits each of the past two months, but said, “He looks much better now than he did a month or two ago.” His weight is back up near what it was last season, and while the team does not want to push him too quickly, they do hope to see him back early in 2018. Takano announced that the team will renew Yokota’s contract and support him through the rest of his recovery process.
Kanemoto commented as well, saying, “It’s such a relief to hear that he is doing better. I’m sure it’s still going to take a long time, but I believe Yokota will plug away and keep working hard to come back.”
For his part, Yokota has expressed his determination to make a full comeback, saying, “I will do what I can to make my baseball career a source of hope, dreams and encouragement for people who have to fight through the same conditions as I have.”