Olympic gold medalists Yamamoto, Murakami earn NPB MVP honours

Olympic gold medalists Yamamoto, Murakami earn NPB MVP honours
The right-handed pitcher received the award in the Pacific League, the third baseman is the best player of the Central League.

Samurai Japan star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto added Pacific League MVP honours to a 2021 season to remember.

The star right-hander helped Japan win a historic gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games and was awarded a gold glove at the end of the 2021 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB season).

Yamamoto was also voted to the All-Pacific League Team. Four more Tokyo gold medalists were selected for the Best Nine Award: shortstop Sosuke Genda, outfielders Masataka Yoshida, Yuki Yanagita and designated hitter Kensuke Kondoh.

The Japanese baseball superstar started two games, one against the Dominican Republic and one against rival Korea, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched 11.1 innings, striking out 18 while allowing only 7 hits. He allowed just two earned runs, and his earned run average (ERA) was an impressive 1.59.

The Olympics were not Yamamoto's first experience in international baseball. He appeared in five games out of the bullpen for first-place Japan at the WBSC Premier12 2019. He allowed only one run over five innings of work.

The Central League MVP is also a Tokyo 2020 gold medalist. The award went to third baseman Munetaka Murakami.

Murakami was also selected as the All-Central League third baseman. The Best Nine Award includes three more gold medal winners: second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and outfielder Seiya Suzuki.