Nakata Shares the CrownWith his 86th home run against Hatsushiba High School of Osaka, Sho Nakata has tied Hiroyuki Oshima, currently of the Seibu Lions, on the all time home run list. With half a year remaining before he "retires", Nakata should easily eclipse 90 homers, and has set a personal goal at 100. I believe he can do it, even if it seems absurd.
In the 6th inning of a 14-0 blowout, Nakata stepped to the plate for the 4th time and launched home run #85 well over the left center field wall. With every at bat cam the anticipation that he could tie the standing mark of 86. The 9th inning saw Nakata take his final crack at history in his 6th at bat, and he delivered on a 1-1 changeup from right-hander Kamei that got too much of the plate. The ball flew to the back screen on a high line drive that hit the upper part of the net at a distance of 394 feet and a height of 46 feet. Those of you familiar with historical home runs might remember that Mickey Mantle's famous shot which hit the facade at Yankee Stadium touched 102 feet, and is believed to have been about 507 feet distance unimpeded. Albert Pujols is credited with a home run which impacted at 95 feet against the light tower at 352 feet. That ball would have sailed about 455 feet if it had continued unimpeded. Mark McGwire hit a monster 470 foot home run against Livan Hernandez on May 16th, 1998, during his 70 home run season, which is reported to have hit at 46 feet up. Considering this ball was a line drive with a small arc, it seems safe to say that Nakata's historical ball had a chance at being in the 450 foot range.
When the ball cleared the wall, the Osaka Toin players jumped out of the dugout and gathered near the first base line. Nakata pumped his fist and seemed to enjoy every second of his moment in the sun. It seems only a matter of days before he holds the record alone, and the pitcher/right fielder will be the brightest star at Koshien with a lock on the #1 spot in the upcoming amateur draft. Which NPB team will tank its season with the most zeal to get a shot at this once in a generation talent?