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Seibu's big man Nakamura back for more

by John E. Gibson (Jul 11, 2008)

One of Saitama Seibu's heavy hitters is again eating up Pacific League pitching.

Takeya Nakamura, nicknamed "Okawari-kun [Mr. Second Helping]," is a big reason--at 1.75 meters and 102 kilograms--why the first-place Lions are feasting on opposing hurlers and on pace for 200 homers this season.

After a couple of power-starved seasons, Nakamura is fourth in the PL in longballs with 18, trailing a trio that includes teammates Craig Brazell, who has 20, and G.G. Sato with 19.

Back to piling up big numbers, it's no surprise what Okawari-kun serves up as the key to success as he tries to stay in form down the stretch.

"I would say it's definitely taking care of myself--eating right," the burly bopper told The Daily Yomiuri on Wednesday.

"Also getting enough rest and drinking enough fluids are important," said the 24-year-old Nakamura, who announced after Tuesday's game he had gotten married earlier that day.

In addition to the square meals that married life will bring, the slugger and the team would love to live off a steady diet of his home runs.

Nakamura, who broke onto the scene in 2005 by smacking 22 longballs in 80 games, had just nine homers the next season before plummeting to seven last year--a 198-game span.

"I didn't hit any home runs at all last season," the third baseman said, exaggerating his low production. "My swing became more compact. I was also getting small [in my stance] at the plate and I wasn't making the most of my power.

"So I came into this season with the idea of trying to go all out. And I've been working hard in practice on just driving the ball."

Nakamura also said he simply had to stop overanalyzing; three years ago, he didn't focus on anything except taking good cuts.

"I was just playing on the farm and when they called me up," he recalled.

"I didn't think about much, I just went out and played--see the ball, hit the ball was pretty much how it was.

"I had hit homers on the farm team, so I was confident I could do it up here, too. I'm glad things have turned out like this for me," said Nakamura, batting .239 with 40 RBIs.

And as the All-Star break approaches, Mr. Second Helping will get his first taste of the mid-summer classic, earning the most votes among third basemen in balloting by both players and fans.

"I don't have great numbers, so I really never expected to be chosen," he said of his selection to the PL squad. "I'm really thrilled."

And as his nickname suggests, he'll probably be back for more.


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