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EXCLUSIVE: Rintaro Sasaki’s Coaches Speak on His Impact

 Julian Guilarte - World Baseball Network  |    Jul 9th, 2024 9:27am EDT

Japanese first baseman and designated hitter Rintaro Sasaki led the Trenton Thunder in home runs (4) and RBI (16) despite joining the team after their first seven games. The left-handed Sasaki, 19, went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly in a 9-1 win against the West Virginia Black Bears at Trenton Thunder Ballpark on July 7.


Japanese superstar Rintaro Sazaki hit his first home run in America snd gets the silent treatment from his teammates 😭 #japan #rintarosasaki #baseball #mlb

♬ Confidence (sped up version) – Ocean Alley

Thunder manager Adonis Smith spoke to World Baseball Network about Rintaro after the game.

“He can flat-out play; he understands his swing and how to play the game of baseball,” Smith said. “What surprised me was how much power he has for such a young age.”

Sasaki came to Trenton with a lot of hype, as he had broken the Japanese record for home runs in high school with 140. He attended Hanamaki-Higashi High School, which is the same as Shohei Ohtani.

Sasaki decided to forgo being the top pick in the NPB Draft and play at Stanford University in 2025. Sasaki will be eligible to enter the MLB Draft in 2027. His numbers for the Thunder were four home runs, 16 RBI, a .233 batting average, and an OPS of .805 in 73 at-bats.

“The moment that stood out for me was the guys coming together. When Rintaro came over, it kind of lit a spark under everyone,” Smith said.

The Thunder were 2-5 before Sasaki arrived and went 11-10 with him in the lineup.

Former MLB pitcher and Trenton Thunder pitching coach Shawn Chacon spoke to World Baseball Network about Sasaki’s potential.

“I think he’s got a great swing, and I think he’s going to be great. Once he gets comfortable playing this style of baseball, gets his body and legs under him, and understands his body a little bit better, he’s going to be a monster,” Chacon said. “I feel like it’s new for him the pitching and the way they’ve attacked him. He’s going to need to adjust, and I think he will.”

Saski’s teammate, outfielder Nathan Archer, had 10 RBI, seven stolen bases, a .333 batting average, and an OPS of .740 in 72 at-bats for the Thunder this season. Archer had 18 home runs, 64 RBI, nine stolen bases, and an OPS of  .962 in 247 at-bats with Bowling Green in his Junior season. Archer hopes to get drafted in the upcoming MLB Draft.

Archer spoke to World Baseball Network after the game on Saski’s performance in the first half.

“He’s a great dude. I got to know him a little bit. The language barrier is a little tough, but we got along. He’s fun to be around, Archer told World Baseball Network. “He’s a generational guy. I think he’ll do great things at Stanford the next few years and I think we’ll be seeing him in pro ball very soon.”

Sasaki has a strong presence in the box at six feet and 250 pounds. Saski’s best drive of the day was his sacrifice fly that was 350 feet and 98.7 MPH to the opposite field in left-center.

The first half of the season is over for the Trenton Thunder, and the next time Rintaro Sasaki will suit up in a real game, it will be for Stanford in 2025.

The Trenton Thunder will begin the second half of MLB Draft League on July 9 in Williamsport against the Williamsport Crosscutters at 6:35 p.m. ET at Journey Bank Ballpark.

Photo Credit: Rintaro Sasaki #3 of the Trenton Thunder at bat during the game against the West Virginia Black Bears on July 7, 2024 at Trenton Thunder Ballpark in Trenton, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Julian Guilarte - World Baseball Network