The parade of news conferences to introduce (or, re-introduce) players the Mets have signed this offseason continued on Monday. This one was for Japanese ace Kodai Senga, who agreed to a five-year, $75 million deal with New York.
You can watch the initial press availability here, but like many others, there wasn’t anything too notable said. However, it was impressive that Senga introduced himself in English, along with providing a hearty “Let’s Go Mets” for everyone in attendance.
While on the open market, reports surfaced the right-hander was looking for a few specific things in the MLB team he eventually signed with. First of all, he wanted to play for a team ready to win right now. He also wanted this organization to be analytically driven and reside in a big market.
Senga has barely been a Met — officially, at least — for a couple of days. However, he’s already found ways to endear himself to this fan base before even stepping foot on the mound at Citi Field.
First, it was being excited to be in Queens at all:
He's here and he's perfect! 🗽 @kodaisenga
(via kodai_senga_/IG) pic.twitter.com/a5YjC0luFf
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) December 18, 2022
He’s already engaged fans by getting their opinion on what his number should be (while steering clear of any Jacob deGrom slander):
48 is not an option🤣🤣
— Kodai Senga 千賀滉大 (@kodaisenga) December 18, 2022
The right-hander is thankful he won’t have to face the Mets’ lineup in 2023, but there is one lineup he’s looking forward to battling:
I asked Kodai Senga if there is any particular player he’s looking forward to facing: “The Phillies lineup.”#Mets
— Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) December 19, 2022
As Twitter user @VaulterXL said, Senga has put together a masterclass on how to be loved and embraced quickly by his new fan base:
- Let fans choose your number
- Make the effort to introduce yourself in English, which is obviously not your first language
- Say you want to beat the Phillies
Senga’s reputation as a ballplayer in Japan is sparkling. He not only posted a 1.89 ERA in 148 innings pitched in 2022, but he’s produced a 2.42 career ERA over 11 pro seasons. We don’t know exactly what he’ll bring to the table in the big leagues just yet. Coming from another country will certainly be an adjustment. That’s especially the case after knowing he’ll be landing in New York.
But, there’s one thing we can be sure of: he craves the spotlight. Things are a little brighter in New York, though. He could’ve gone anywhere — including San Diego to pitch in the same rotation as his buddy, Yu Darvish. Senga instead chose the Big Apple.
He wasn’t kidding about wanting to be in a big market. And with a comment like the one above, he’s also happy to get engaged in what’s sure to be an intriguing battle in the National League East.
As the Mets build what they feel is a winning roster, it’s not just about acquiring the best players (although that doesn’t hurt). It’s about finding top-shelf players who have the desire to play in New York. If you’re not ready for it, it can eat you alive.
From the past few days, Senga doesn’t just appear ready for it. This is something he’s been waiting to experience for years. While he tries to navigate the gauntlet that is pizza in New York City, the Japanese hurler will probably do just fine here.