PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Ducks are two wins away from the College World Series.
There aren’t a lot of Portland-area locals who star on the squad. Ironically, the person contributing the most to the team with a local tie not only wasn’t born here, he wasn’t born in America.
In the fall of 2019, former Mt. Hood Community College head coach Bryan Donohue received an email out of the blue.
“Isn’t that wild?” said Donohue, reflecting on the cold message that would end up changing Rikuu Nishida’s life.
A baseball team of Japanese players looking to play collegiately would be in the area. The head of their program was wondering if they could swing by the campus for a practice.
“He hit a ball off of our right field fence, which normally is a double for most hitters,” recalled Donohue of that day. “Next thing I know I look over, and Rikuu’s sliding in safe at third base.”
That was a precursor for things to come.
The 5-foot-6 slugger eventually played for MHCC and broke the school’s single-season stolen bases record his first year there with 33. That came in a season with 14 fewer games than normal due to the pandemic.
The next year he throttled his own record with 58 stolen bases.
This year at Oregon he has 25 stolen bases so far, demolishing the program’s single-season record of 18 set back in 1965. Now with 64 runs scored this season, he’s one run away from owning the Oregon single-season record in that category.
“Rikuu’s game is so unique that, myself, kind of being a traditionalist when it comes to baseball—I don’t want to say it scared me, but some of the things he does on a field made me nervous,” said Donohue. “Thankfully, really quickly into his time with me as his coach I just kind of threw my hands up and said, ‘Hey, man, just go play.’”
The Nashville regional MVP isn’t just a special player. He’s also a special person.
His former head coach called his personality infectious.
“You just couldn’t help but follow his lead,” said Donohue. “The language barrier was what it was, but man, when we played baseball, when we were in practice, even if it was just a drill, he had so much fun with it that it elevated other players around him.”
Nishida is a shorter-than-average player, he didn’t know English three years ago and he took a highly unconventional route as he is the first Japanese-born player to play baseball at Oregon.
And it all may not have happened without a cold email to the head coach of a community college in Gresham.
“I really feel that he has proven a lot of people wrong, and I will even go as far as saying myself,” said Donahue.
Here’s to Rikuu proving more people wrong this weekend.
Oregon baseball will take on Oral Roberts in the NCAA Super Regionals in Eugene this weekend. First pitch on Friday is at 5 p.m., first pitch on Saturday is at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s game time is yet to be announced if it is necessary.