Koshien is a massive event with the highest of stakes.
Over 15 days, 56 teams compete in front of a crowd of nearly 50,000 people for the Japanese High School Baseball Championship, according to Yahoo. In 1998, future MLB pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka once threw a 17-inning complete game in the quarterfinals — one day after a 148-pitch shutout, according to the Washington Post.
Matsuzaka pitched in relief the following day and then threw another shutout in the championship.
With stakes that high, pitchers willing to risk the health of their arms for the tournament, it’s unthinkable that a player would shrug off a free base and step back into the batter’s box.
But this year, a player did exactly that in the name of sportsmanship.
Kennobu Sugawara got hit by pitch. Instead of taking first base like pretty much every other player would have done, he told the umpire he leaned in.
Sugawara even gave a small bow to the pitcher, and stepped back into the box.
“I thought I was bad because I had been bent forward and I was sorry. I apologized to the opponent,” Sugawara said to Yahoo Japan.
What happened next was either karma or simply a good swing at a pitch, depending on your levels of superstition. Either way, he blasted it over the left field wall.
Sugawara easily could have worn the pitch, walked down to first base and nobody would have been the wiser.
But the sportsmanship paid off. Instead of being lost in the box score, this swing enters the lore that is Koshien.