Yoshinobu Yamamoto: "I couldn't believe we won the Olympic gold medal"

Yoshinobu Yamamoto: "I couldn't believe we won the Olympic gold medal"
The 23-year old starting pitcher told the WBSC he was acting as the team cameraman and shot the final out and celebrations.

Japanese baseball superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto 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 WBSC obtained an exclusive interview with Yamamoto.

The hurler said he felt from the bottom of his heart "an amazing experience" at the Olympics. He added he thought it was "more special" since Japan was the hosting Nation.

Yamamoto spoke about the 2011 Tohoku earthquake as "the disaster" and mentioned that playing the first game in Fukushima had a special feeling.

Talking about the gold medal game, Yamamoto confessed: "I was the team's official cameraman." He explained that he was recording with a small video camera when his teammates took the field to celebrate.

"I honestly couldn't believe we won the gold medal, and I was overcome with joy," added Yamamoto.

Before the Games happened, the right-hander said he had mixed feelings. He said he wanted to play in the Olympics, but added: "I thought maybe it would be better to cancel them, considering the difficult situation with COVID-19."

What he did was focus on the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) regular season with the Orix Buffaloes. Yamamoto, who has played for the Buffaloes since 2017, has enjoyed a career year, posting an 18-5 record. He struck out 206 over 193.2 innings of work while allowing only 124 hits and 40 walks. He posted a phenomenal 1.39 earned run average (ERA).

Yamamoto, during the interview, also spoke of the relation with manager Atsunori Inaba. He said he was impressed by his "players-first" attitude.
"We were determined to work together for our manager," he said.

He said he is thankful about playing for Inaba internationally and winning.
"It's a rare opportunity to be able to play internationally, let alone win."
He added: "I have a lot of goals, big and small. So I'd like to achieve those goals one by one and get close to my ideal self."

Yamamoto also commented on Shohei Ohtani's tremendous success at the Major League Baseball (MLB) level as a two-way player.
"Having a player like him, who has a great record both as a pitcher and as a hitter, can inspire a lot of kids to dream big. So I think it's really a big deal."

On a final note, Yamamoto spoke about the wish of bringing more kids to play baseball.
"I hope every baseball player can set a big goal, and we will work hard for that."

The interview with Yamamoto is available on WBSC YouTube channel.