Hideki Okajima's Wind-Up

There's Nothing Funny About This Comic Book Delivery
There's Nothing Funny About This Comic Book Delivery
The animé origins of Hideki Okajima's super-windup.

By Paul Flannery

As a kid growing up in Kyoto, Hideki Okajima learned his pitching delivery from the pages of Ace, a Japanese comic book. In it, a young baseball phenom named Kazuya Aiba has the supernatural ability to strike out every batter he faces. "When he released the ball, his head was facing down and his hat fell to the ground," Okajima says. "I was trying to copy the motion. I believed it would make me throw harder."

It didn't: Okajima's fastball rarely tops the high 80s. So to excel in the American League, Okajima went further, incorporating a judo technique—mimicking body-slamming an opponent to the ground—that leaves his head, upon delivery, even more tucked into his chin, his eyes now nowhere near home plate, an act of visual trickery that befuddles many batters. In other words, these days Okajima's delivery is more cartoonish than the one from which he drew inspiration.

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