Lotte Marines' flame-thrower Roki Sasaki on Friday spoke of his gratitude to those who helped him after he lost his father and grandparents to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The 20-year-old pitcher was in the third year of elementary school when the disaster struck his hometown of Rikuzentakata in northeastern Iwate Prefecture. His house was swept away by the tsunami and he was forced to evacuate and live at a nursing home.
"It's been 11 years but I cannot easily erase the agony and sadness I felt at the time," Sasaki said at Zozo Marine Stadium.
"I've been able to dedicate myself to baseball thanks to the support I've had. I only have the sense of gratitude to those who supported me."
He also had special words for young children who did not experience the disaster.
"I want them to appreciate and not take for granted the things they have now and the precious people around them," he said.
Sasaki made his Nippon Professional Baseball debut last year, going 3-2 in 11 outings in the Pacific League as he struck out 68 in 63-1/3 innings with a 2.27 ERA.
The lanky right-hander has already hit a career-high 163 kilometers per-hour twice this spring as he gears up to play an integral role in his third pro season.
"It's meaningful for me to speak (on the disaster) and get people remember or spare a thought for it," Sasaki said.
Japan marks 11 years since quake disaster, Fukushima crisis