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Tokyo native chasing American dream in Elizabethton

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jun 27, 2018 at 4:03 PM

At the age of 18, Takashi Miyoshi arrived in the United States with the ability to speak two languages — but one of them wasn’t English.

Fortunately for his adjustment to a new country and culture, he fluently spoke the language of baseball. Twenty-two years later that dialect keeps Miyoshi attached to the game he loves.

As the Appalachian League baseball season spreads its wings, Miyoshi is in some ways a rookie just like the Elizabethton Twins players he coaches. But there is clearly something different about Miyoshi, who is believed to be the first-ever Japanese coach in the Twins’ farm system.

“Any club that has Miyoshi on its staff will be a better ball club,” said Twins’ manager Ray Smith. “He’s a high-energy guy, a knowledgeable guy, and an experienced guy. He doesn’t act like he knows it all, and understands the winds of knowledge blow different directions. He arrives early and stays late.

“And I think he can relate to the players. This life is not easy. We’re like a bunch of nomads. He is away from home, too, just like the players.”

Home

Born in Tokyo in 1978, Miyoshi developed a love for the game early in life. He played high school baseball in Japan, but yearned for a bigger challenge.

“I think in Japanese baseball the coaching is way behind,” said Miyoshi. “I always wanted to play Major League Baseball, so I just decided to go to the U.S. and play ball.”

His first taste was at the Montreal Expos’ baseball academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I couldn’t speak any English,” said Miyoshi. “It was tough on me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t understand anything. I got in trouble a lot because I didn’t understand.”

Miyoshi fought the language barrier the same way he played the game: giving effort. He studied English, but lost a lot of weight because of stress. Still, throughout each day he persevered.

“I never cared about anything that happened to me as long as I could play ball,” said Miyoshi.

The road traveled

Miyoshi played junior college baseball at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts, and later found his way to the Canadian League in London, Ontario.

His manager was Willie Wilson, who stole 668 bases in a 19-year career mostly with the Kansas City Royals.

Staying in the Independent League circuit, Miyoshi landed with the Victoria Seals in Canada in 2009. His manager there was Darrell Evans, who hit 414 home runs in a 21-year major-league career.

“Darrell Evans was the one who gave me a coaching opportunity,” said Miyoshi. “He basically told me my work ethic, taking notes, learning baseball stuff, and every day asking questions would one day make me a good coach. He said, ‘Yoshi, come be an assistant coach with me.’ ”

Evans introduced Miyoshi to his world, including former players like Bill Buckner, a 22-year major-league veteran.

An open door

Miyoshi’s big break came in 2015 when he became manager of the Sonoma Stompers in California. He led the team to the league finals three straight years and won the title in 2016. His 2015 team included a cameo of eight at-bats from 50-year-old Jose Canseco.

Part of that three-year process of managing was the inclusion of statistic-minded Ben Lindberg and Sam Miller, who took care of baseball operations for the Stompers and wrote a book called, “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team.”

“We were the first independent league team to use a Sabermetrics system like the major-league teams use,” said Miyoshi.

Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball statistics.

“I learned a lot about how I have to use evidence in the game in order to make better decisions,” said Miyoshi. “Sometimes it was tough on my teams to understand what they needed to do.”

Reaping the rewards

Because of the way he ran the independent league team, Miyoshi caught the eye of major-league franchises. The first team to contact him was the Dodgers.

“After the season was over, Gabe Kapler called me,” said Miyoshi. “But he got the job as the (Philadelphia) Phillies manager. Then (new Twins’ player development director) Jeremy Zoll reached out to me. The Twins offered me the job and told me I would probably be going to Elizabethton.”

Home sweet home

Although Miyoshi is certainly in a comfort zone in any baseball dugout, it has been difficult to be away from his wife and five-year-old son.

“It is extremely tough because I am not able to see my son, almost six months this year,” said Miyoshi. “But my wife is understanding about what I’m trying to do in the U.S. She knows it’s something special to be coaching for Major League Baseball teams.”

Miyoshi said he hopes the big leagues are in his future.

“Maybe in a long time,” he said. “But you never know about tomorrow. Hopefully I will learn a lot from Ray and Jeff (Reed). They are two legendary icons in baseball and with the Twins. I just want to keep learning. I love everything about Elizabethton and about minor-league baseball.”

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