New Celtic signing Reo Hatate addresses his family's interesting sporting history

By Euan Davidson

January 12, 2022

If new Celtic signing Reo Hatate wanted it, he would’ve had the full weight of Japanese baseball backing him to follow his father’s footsteps.

Instead, and mercifully for Celtic supporters, Hatate chose football. The midfielder, who made his first appearance in front of the Scottish media yesterday, admitted that baseball never stood a chance. But his Dad, Koji Hatate, was a Japanese national baseball player, who subsequently became a coach in the game.

Hatate Jr, though, picked goals over home runs. His Dad played short-stop and second baseman, who represented Japan in the Asian Baseball Championship in 1993. He went on to be a coach and director, most notably for a Honda-run factory team.

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

That didn’t enter Reo’s thinking at all, though. The new Celtic signing said [Herald]: “It is true that my father was a baseball player, but, in terms of me and other sports, it was nothing.

“I enjoyed football too much to think about doing anything else and that was it. It was always going to be my sport.”

In Japan, football is not the obvious choice. Baseball is absolutely gigantic in the country, and has been since the 1920s. It’s comfortably the biggest spectator sport in Japan [AllAbout-Japan], and big names from the Far East have made it in the MLB. Hiroki Kuroda, for example. Or more recently, all-rounder Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels.

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New Celtic signing Reo Hatate not interested in batting averages, but goals and assists

Small mercies, eh? The infrastructure of Japanese baseball would’ve been behind Reo Hatate if he chose that path. If anything, power to him for rejecting what might’ve been an easier career.

If you’re interested, here’s Hatate senior in action, from about 4.45 minutes in [YouTube]. Quite a whack he’s got on him.

Again; baseball in Japan is a massive deal. Hatate turning it down is akin to a Scottish talent turning down football for cricket. Yet, Hatate clearly made the right decision, and he too has represented Japan in sporting endeavours. His next step is an exciting one, and it’ll be fascinating to see how he gets on at Celtic.

Photo by Hiroki Watanabe/Getty Images

Used to winning titles in his short career thus far, Hatate will be hoping his streak of league wins won’t stop at Celtic Park. He’s fresh off winning the J League with Kawasaki Frontale, and having another serial winner in the dressing room is no bad thing.

Maybe he can teach the Celtic players a thing or two about baseball while he’s in Glasgow. But don’t count on him making a Michael Jordan-style pivot to another sport while he’s here.

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