Riverhawks Welcome Tandem with Ties to Japan
Two More Signings with International Twists
The Edmonton Riverhawks are taking on an international flavour this year. The global outlook began with the signing of Vancouver-born Manilla-raised Jakob Poturnak. Now, as the 80s rock band The Vapors sang, the Hawks are turning Japanese. They’ve signed one player who hails from the island nation and another from Washington state with roots to Japan.
The player closest to Edmonton is Tommy Takayoshi, a catcher who was born and raised in Spanaway, Washington. Tommy’s mom and grandma were born in Okinawa, Japan, and that nation’s love of baseball runs deep in Tommy’s veins.
"I just always really enjoyed playing and I have always bonded over it with my dad," says Thomas, who has baseball in his DNA thanks to his dad, Todd, who played in the Angels and Indians organisations.
Tommy has gained a lot of experience playing with teams close to home. He suited up with the University of Washington before venturing further south with Fresno State. And he has previous West Coast League experience, having suited up with the Port Angeles Lefties, but he wanted to play in a new environment.
"I played in the WCL going into my first year and after my sophomore year. It's a great league, and I had a lot of fun playing in it. Being from Washington, I want to be somewhere new and I was automatically drawn to Edmonton," said Tommy. "I do not know much about Edmonton but I'm excited to get out there and get going! I just want to get better every day, to get drafted and keep having fun."
His talents as a catcher drew the attention of long time Edmonton baseball legend, Orv Franchuk.
“I talked to Orv about him and he raved about Tommy’s prowess behind the plate,” says Riverhawks head coach Jake Lanferman. “We’re really excited to be able to add Tommy to the team.”
The other new signing is Ren Yokoyama, who was born and raised in Aichi, Japan.
“Fans are going to love watching Ren," adds the head coach. "He has elite speed which will integrate nicely with our hard-nosed brand of baseball. He's being effectively used as a two-way player at Hesston College and we're excited to have him play for our organization in a variety of roles."
The utility infielder, who can also pitch, has always been fleet of feet. He was raised by his mother and he helped look after his younger sister. While Ren’s mother is a nurse who was always there to support his baseball dream, Ren had to drop out of college to work full-time in the Toyota factory to reduce the burden on his mother.
Ren hopes to join a Division 1 university and then play pro, either MLB or back home in Japan. He reached out to the Riverhawks after seeing them on Instagram. He was fascinated with the great coaches, teammates, field, spectators and events. He felt he would experience many things here that he couldn’t with other teams.
While he hasn’t travelled to Canada, Ren knows some of the tourist attractions here, such Elk Island National Park and the Provincial Museum, because they are famous in Japan. He hopes to see some of those spots but he’s also planning on bringing something from back home to the team - a buzz cut! Ren says all players in Japan have the same haircut - buzz-cuts!
It should be a great meeting of cultures, even though Coach Lanferman knows language may be a challenge with Ren. “I may have to have Google Translator on standby in the dugout!”
Welcome to the Riverhawks, Ren and Tommy!