Living in Japan hasn’t been easy for Valencia High baseball alum Josh Corrales, but it’s definitely starting to pay off.
After adjusting to a new culture and language (he communicated with teammates through emojis at one point), Corrales signed a contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team located in the northern part of Japan, on Sunday.
The NPB is the highest level of baseball a player can reach in Japan.
“We see him as a pitcher who can contribute both as a starter and in relief and decided to acquire him looking ahead to the rest of the season,” Rakuten’s team director Hiroshi Abei said in a statement featured in The Japan Times.
Corrales is one of few Americans in the NPB and one of the youngest on the Golden Eagles team, which is ranked first in the Pacific League with a 38-20 record.
“He’s able to put his whole heart into baseball,” said Corrales’ mother, Olga. “Even when the times have been the toughest – and he’s gone through very much a difficult time – but baseball for him, it is uplifting for him.”
The toughest of times was perhaps when Corrales’ late father, Robert Corrales, died of leukemia in 2009. Corrales was playing college baseball for Long Beach State at the time.
“This boy has been through the ringer,” Olga said. “To see your son finally get to achieve what he’s passionate about, which is baseball, it’s just overwhelming. As a mother, you’re just very proud.”
The pitcher moved to the Eastern Hemisphere three years ago when he was picked up by a minor league team, the Toyama GRN Thunderbirds of the independent BC League.
Prior to that, he played college baseball for Long Beach State, then Cal State Dominguez Hills. He was drafted in the 44th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Seattle Mariners.
He spent two years with the Mariners’ minor league affiliates, then left for Japan.
“The people believe in baseball, it’s one of their most passionate pastimes,” Olga said of the Japanese fans. “(Josh) says the stands are always full and there’s always cheering.”
Corrales comes home in the offseason and lives with Olga while training. Corrales is unsure of when he’ll return home to the states for good, but Olga remains proud – and knows her husband would be, too.