Actual baseball highlight: Former MLB player launches mammoth homer in Japan exhibition game

Major League Baseball, like many sports leagues around the world, has been shut down indefinitely because of the growing threat that is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Spring Training has been suspended and Opening Day has been pushed back to at least mid-May, and that remains subject to change as the situation develops.

There is some good news though. Conditions have improved enough elsewhere in the world that baseball has resumed. Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan and the Korea Baseball Organization recently started spring training-style workouts in empty stadiums. Neither league has announced a date for Opening Day, but baseball is happening again. Hooray for that.

On Friday, the three-time defending Japan Series champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks hosted the Chiba Lotte Marines for an exhibition game at a spectator-free PayPay Dome in Japan. Former MLB player Brandon Laird cranked a mammoth home run in the game and I am embedding the video as a public service, because I think we all need a little baseball right now. Enjoy:

Ah yes, that’s the good stuff. I’ve missed you, baseball.

Laird played 53 MLB games with the Yankees and Astros from 2011-13 before joining the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan in 2015. In five NPB seasons, he’s a .241/.314/.480 hitter with 163 home runs in 683 games.

It should be noted Laird hit the home run off 20-year-old righty Carter Stewart. The Braves selected Stewart with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft but did not sign him. The pre-signing physical uncovered a wrist injury and Stewart rejected a reduced signing bonus offer.

After spending 2019 at a Florida junior college, Stewart signed an unprecedented six-year contract with the Hawks that guarantees him more than $7 million. He started his career in the Japanese minor leagues and Friday’s exhibition game was his first call-up to the big league club. Stewart allowed one run, the Laird homer, in five innings.

“I’m excited for the season to come,” Stewart told the Kyodo News. “Nobody knows when that’s going to happen, but obviously with what’s going on right now it’s best to do what you can and keep practicing and keep getting better for whenever.”  

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