It had been over a decade since the Oakland A's held a press conference to introduce a free agent signing. It has also been a long time since the A's signed a player as intriguing as Shintaro Fujinami.
That made his introductory press conference all the more important. The A's need something that is going to generate excitement in the fanbase, someone that can be a beacon of hope and give the fans a reason to head to the ballpark.
Shintaro Fujinami generating plenty of intrigue
The A's certainly hope Fujinami will be that player. His introductory press conference was the first one they held for a free agent signee since Hiroyuki Nakajima in 2012, who spent two seasons in the A's system without actually playing in the majors. It does make sense - the likes of Jace Pederson and Aledmys Diaz may be solid players, but they are not anyone that will generate a buzz.
Fujinami can. His story is compelling - he was once a top prospect in Japan, someone who was considered right there with Shohei Ohtani until his command disappeared. He was shuffled between the Hanshin Tigers NPB and minor league squads while moving between the rotation and bullpen, trying to rediscover his confidence and command at the same time. It all finally came together once again last year as Fujinami was able to rediscover his form.
He will be 29 years old at the beginning of the season. The stuff is still there - he still has the same high octane fastball with an excellent slider and splitter. If his command is there, he can be a weapon, either as a starter or a reliever. His personality and looks, both of which shined through in that press conference, will help that early excitement.
But he will need to produce results. His personality and looks will only carry him so far. If he does perform well, he could quickly become a fan favorite. The A's certainly need that to happen.
Shintaro Fujinami is already sparking some excitement for the Oakland A's. Now he needs to back that up on the diamond.