THROWBACK THURSDAY 11.29.12 Ryotaro Hayakawa (Baseball) 2004-07
Nov. 28, 2012
A member of the 2006 Big 12 Championship team, this former baseball player has an unusual story. Right-handed pitcher Ryotaro Hayakawa left his home in Japan and came to Kansas in 2004 to play for Ritch Price and the Jayhawk baseball team. He appeared in 15 games out of the bullpen in his freshman year and continued to be a valuable asset to the team throughout his years at Kansas. Following his graduation from KU in 2007, he returned to his home country where he works as a financial consultant.
How did you become interested in baseball?
“It is difficult to say how I became interested in playing baseball. My grandfather was a big baseball fan; I would watch games on TV with him and became interested in the sport. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan and I started playing when I was six years old. I think watching it on TV with my grandfather greatly influenced my interest in the sport.”
What made you choose to play baseball at Kansas?
“Choosing to come to Kansas was a coincidence, because I did not know where Kansas was in the first place. I knew nothing about America until my dad bought a study abroad book for me when I was a senior in high school. Three things really attracted me to KU: first is that not many Japanese people live in Kansas, second it had a good baseball program and third is Kansas belonged to the Big 12 Conference, which was one of the strongest conferences in the country. I also knew KU was getting a new coach and figured I had a better chance to play, because he would probably restructure the team.”
What was your most memorable game with the Jayhawks?
“My most memorable baseball game was against the University of Texas. It was my freshman year and first road trip to Austin. At that time, I did not know Texas was ranked No. 1 in the nation; I was just pumped up to play on the field. I got into the game at the bottom of the second when we were losing 4-1. It was my first game against a Big 12 team and we already had one out. I gave up a single and a guy hit a grounder that led to a double play. After that, I pitched a shutout for the rest of the game. I was very excited to have the opportunity to accomplish this as a freshman. Also, a memorable tournament for me was the Big 12 tournament when we won the championship (in 2006)! That moment was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. It was so much fun to share that amazing experience with my teammates and KU baseball fans.”
What is your favorite memory of Kansas outside of sports?
“Hanging out with my friends on the weekend and going to different places in Lawrence. Also, I really enjoyed going to Coach (Ritch) Price’s house Thanksgiving Day, which we do not have in Japan. That day I could eat a lot of turkey and apple pies. Everything I ate was so good!”
What was your favorite part about playing at Kansas?
“The people are so nice! I was lucky to play baseball with such great teammates. During the winter it was very cold and I did not like that but my teammates, the staff, coaches and facilities made that easier to cope with. Also everything was bigger in comparison to things in Japan.”
How did you balance academics and athletics?
“Balancing academics and athletics was not very easy for me, but my teammates and my academic tutor helped me get through it. I worked hard every day and managing my time was a big part of why I could graduate. I would attend study hall and that really helped me stay on track with my grades.”
What did you major in at KU and where has your career path taken you?
“My major was economics. I am now working for a financial company called Orix Corporation. Basically, I’m a salesperson for our financial division and a consultant for my clients. I talk with them (around 100 clients) every day about their financial problems.”
What have you been doing since graduating from KU?
“I’ve been working for Orix Corp., for almost five years and living in Kobe City which is three hours from Tokyo by train.”
Have you been back to visit Lawrence since graduating?
“Yes, I have visited Lawrence twice. Recently, I came back to Lawrence because I went to my former teammate Don Czyz’s wedding (in October). I promised him that I would attend his wedding when I left Kansas. Lawrence had not changed much at all, so I felt like I had come back home.”
Do you still keep in touch with former teammates?
“Yes, I keep in touch with them using Facebook or e-mail. We have a 12-hour time difference, so it’s hard to keep in touch with everyone. I would love get everyone together for a reunion at KU or to get them to come visit me in Japan!”
Do you still follow Jayhawk baseball?
“Yes, I always follow the current Jayhawk baseball team to see how they are doing. I like to check out the website during the season. Looking at it is a part of my daily routine.”
Do you have any advice for current or future Jayhawks who are interested in playing a sport at KU?
“It was great to play baseball at KU and I can guarantee that it will be a special experience. Not only are the baseball fields and facilities great, but the coaching staff is so talented. As a baseball graduate, I still follow the team and from the bottom of my heart am still proud to be a Jayhawk baseball player. You will never forget the time you had competing together and all the great experiences. (I would tell them to) Appreciate your time as a college athlete while you can, because your time goes fast and once you graduate, it’s over. You can make your dreams come true and have a successful future.”