Jul. 25—Most people live in one country their entire life.
Joplin Outlaws pitcher Masayuki Maruhashi has lived in five different countries. He spent the better part of his childhood in Latin American countries like El Salvador and Guatemala before attending high school in Saitama, Japan.
And currently his family lives in the Dominican Republic.
Maruhashi has spent the last two years pitching collegiately in the United States.
Most recently, the COVID-19 freshman pitched for Highland Community College in Kansas this spring.
"I have learned a lot of different cultures and different baseball," Maruhashi said on Friday night in a phone interview. "Those countries are not good at baseball, but it was a great experience watching different types of baseball."
Oh, and he just so happens to be trilingual as well.
"My mom is Mexican and my father is Japanese," Maruhashi said. "They made sure I spoke Japanese and Spanish. In school, I learned English."
As one would expect, Maruhashi feels most comfortable speaking Spanish. He ranked Japanese as his second best language and admitted he still has a way to go with English — widely regarded as one of the most difficult to master because of its unpredictable spelling and challenging-to-learn grammar.
"Not gonna lie, when I started it in first grade, it took me a lot," Maruhashi said. "I remember I cried a lot during the tests because I couldn't understand any English. But since I've been with just American guys this summer (with the Outlaws), I'm starting to feel more comfortable with English."
And the ability to speak English would be a must for Maruhashi. During his time in high school in Japan, he thought what he was going to do after graduation. Baseball immediately popped up in his mind as native legends like Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani made their way to America and became instant superstars in the MLB.
"I wanted to play baseball in the U.S. where the Major Leagues are — the highest level of baseball," Maruhashi said. "That's one thing that made me come here to the states because I want to play at the highest level, and get to experience what it's like in the MLB."
Maruhashi's first stop in the U.S. brought him to the lower part of the Midwest, where he spent his first season playing college baseball at Western Oklahoma State in 2020. Maruhashi felt like he adapted quickly to the country, especially with what he already endured before.
"The only problem was the food because it's kind of greasy," he said. "That was the biggest problem for me, but I didn't really play well at Western Oklahoma. That was a huge level and I was like, 'Am I gonna be able to pitch like these guys?' "
Maruhashi wound up transferring to Highland. He proved to be a viable reliever with the Scotties, posting a team-low 2.08 earned run average in seven appearances while striking out 11 batters in 13 innings.
"The key was my breaking balls," Maruhashi said. "If I can throw my breaking balls, good location and for strikes — that was the thing that helped me the most — because American hitters can just smash fastballs."
Ironically, his coach at Highland was former Missouri Southern baseball assistant Landon Hay.
"His fastball is anywhere from 85-88 miles per hour," Hay said. "I saw one 90 this year, and then he throws a breaking ball at 56 mph. It's an absolutely devastating differential. He calls it a rainbow curve, but we call it a gravity ball because the wind just blows it down out of the air. The guy commands multiple pitches and he is a competitor. We were certainly glad he was here. We enjoyed having him."
Joining the Outlaws
Maruhashi's connection to Hay landed him on the Outlaws' roster this summer, joining fellow Highland teammates Austin Gottula and Ward Richardson. He is referred to by his teammates as "Mas" — short for his first name.
In seven games for Joplin this summer, the righty has a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA and fanned 14 batters over 15 innings. Maruhashi also showed he could be versatile as he made two starts and notched one save.
"My main goal for summer ball was to speed up my velocity, try to throw harder," Maruhashi said. "In the first three weeks, I struggled because I was trying to change mechanics and it was tough to change that during the season. But after that, I started to get it again. I think I got better with my mechanics than when I started this summer and it made me realize what I need to improve overall as a pitcher."
Maruhashi has reaped the benefits of his successes recently. On July 17, he announced his commitment to further his collegiate career at Clarke University in Iowa.
"He has this quiet confidence about himself," Outlaws manager Chris Dawson said. "Anytime he takes the ball, he knows he's going to go out and do a good job. He is a great human being and a great teammate. I know it's huge for him that he committed to Clarke University in Iowa. Congrats to him, a big step in his career."
Maruhashi also said he's looking to learn a fourth language — one preferably similar to Spanish or Japanese. For now, he's going to continue to enjoy one American entree not exactly served up on a silver platter in Latin America or Japan.
"Steak," Maruhashi said with a laugh.