Japanese baseball legend Tanaka Masahiro eligible for Olympic spot

The All-star pitcher's recent transfer to the Japanese domestic league could see him return to the Olympics, having previously starred at Beijing 2008. 

By Olympic Channel
Picture by 2018 Mike Stobe

One of the most recognisable names in Japanese baseball is now eligible for Tokyo 2020, after Tanaka Masahiro transferred back to Japan's domestic league following a seven-year stint with the New York Yankees.

Major League Baseball players have not traditionally competed at the Olympics as they take place during the regular season. However, with the Japanese NPB league taking a summer break to accommodate the Games, 32-year-old Tanaka could now be in line for a famous comeback.

News of Tanaka's transfer caused a social media frenzy, with the athlete's announcement on Twitter gaining over 43 thousand likes and six thousand retweets.

In a fond farewell to the Yankees, Tanaka said: "I feel extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to take the field as a member of the New York Yankees and play in front of all you passionate fans. It has been an honor and a privilege!"

And while the baseball legend did not discuss plans to compete at Tokyo 2020, his transfer to the Eagles has put him in firm contention for a home Olympic Games, where the sport will make its Olympic return after an absence of 13 years.

Here is everything you need to know about the Olympic baseball tournament at Tokyo 2020.

Tanaka Masahiro
Picture by 2013 Getty Images

Tanaka enjoyed seven years of success in Major League Baseball and was named an All-star on two occasions. His final stats of 78-46 in 173 starts made him one of the most consistent pitchers in the league.

Prior to joining the New York Yankees, the Itami-born athlete went 99-35 over seven seasons with the Eagles. Fans will hope he can reproduce the type of form that also saw him go 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average in 2013.

Baseball/softball will make its Olympic return on 21 July 2021 in Japan's Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.