By: Alexis Pérez Rúa
A little over a month after arriving in the land of the rising sun, with the signing of a contract to play for the organization of the Yomiuri Giants, Hector Manuel Mendoza Ripoll sees his horizon populated with dreams, with one way, work and daily effort.
The promising pitcher from the Isle of Youth was presented along with other Cuban athletes to a group of Japanese specialists just about 3 months ago and without wasting much time the board of the franchise wanted to have him in their ranks, due to his remarkable condition.
As a novel detail and the long-term intentions of the Japanese with Mendoza, Carlos Soto Soto, his head coach in Cuba, was also transferred to work in conjunction with the boy and technicians of the Yomiuri, a decision that leaves even greater dividends for Cuban baseball.
After a long day of practice Hector spoke to OnCuba about his experiences in Japanese baseball.
“The level is very high, all players are well prepared and know what they have to do at all times, as the tactical technical thinking and concentrating here are a priority in the preparation.
“Discipline is the other aspect that are very repetitive and demanding, respect and compliance of schedules for every activity here is sacred, it has helped me a lot especially to better plan my working and even free time.”
What characteristics do the workouts have?
“They’re very physical, rather working with weights but with a lot of planning and distribution, the major emphasis is on the strengths of the legs, and as control over all releases, a virtue which characterizes the Japanese baseball.”
What differentiates them from the days in Cuba?
“Here they are longer, I have to have 12 hours of training, at first it was exhausting for me, I do not have those habits, but gradually I mastered the job well and have seen the results on the mound.”
How have you felt on the mound?
“Well, I’m still pitching in the second team of the organization as a reliever and have done quite well, although I’m not with my usual speed, maximum that clocked me is 149 km / h about 92 miles, but that is a consequence of adaptation system of training, they have told me that I will gradually improve it; patience and hard work are the keys here. ”
His youth is accommodated with unusual restraint in boys his age, which from the outset called the attention of the Japanese, who see in Mendoza a promising future for the staff of the most successful franchise in the Japanese league. In six starts Mendoza has pitched 11 innings and two thirds with 2 earned runs, five hits and 8 strikeouts for a 1.50 average.
Was the adjustment period difficult?
“No. One always misses his land, his family, his habits, but here have been very kind to me, they are great people and all the time try to make me feel my best, it has positively influenced my preparation.
“Nor have I had problems with meals are delicious, although in my case is a middle ground between his and West, is a new culture for me, but I feel good knowing it and has not been difficult to adapt to me.”
What has Hector Mendoza improved during this time?
Thinking on the mound, trust in my pitches and concentration, I have seen improvement in all aspects, but still need to keep working on something as important as controlling and incorporating 4-seam fastballs to increase my speed; I feel that every day I am improving and that drives me to keep going; I hope to return a best pitcher to help the Pirates in everything I can.