Photo/IllutrationIn this Jan. 27 photo, former Japanese professional baseball player Shogo Kimura participating in cricket practice in Sano, north of Tokyo. (AP Photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Aiming to become the first player from Japanese professional baseball to make the transition to the top ranks of international cricket, Shogo Kimura figures he has the necessary skills.

The 37-year-old Kimura played in Nippon Professional Baseball from 2003 to 2017 with the Yokohama BayStars, Hiroshima Carp and Seibu Lions and is now trying to make the rare jump from baseball to cricket.

"I still feel I'm in good physical shape so I wanted to continue being a player," Kimura said in an interview with the Associated Press. "I was asked about being a (baseball) coach but I still feel I can be an athlete. When I was asked about becoming a cricket player, I watched some video and became very interested."

Kimura, who spent most of his career as an infielder with Hiroshima, is looking to join a top-level cricket league in India or Australia one day and also has aspirations to make Japan's national team.

He's well aware of the huge challenges he faces.

"It is challenging for sure," Kimura said. "But if I didn't have the confidence to do it I wouldn't be trying it. Maybe my confidence will be shaken but there are always going to be growing pains. Even with those challenges, I feel like I want to try and move forward in a positive direction."

While both are bat and ball sports, the similarities pretty much end there. The swings are entirely different and Kimura is working on fielding balls without a glove.

"There are some similarities but I have to catch the ball with my bare hands and when I do that I feel like I should be wearing a glove," Kimura said. "That will take some getting used to."

Australian Dhugal Bedingfield, a coach with Japan's national cricket team, has introduced Kimura to some of the finer points of the game and thinks he has a pretty good chance based on his long career in Japanese baseball.

"Obviously, he's made it in one sport so he's got some very good attributes that would make him a good cricket player," Bedingfield said. "Whether he can go on and become a professional cricket player remains to be seen. Obviously, everyone is very hopeful of that but it's an experiment that probably hasn't been done in Japan before."

Looking to grow the sport, the Japan Cricket Association contacted NPB to see if there might be a player who could take up the challenge and Kimura's name came up in those discussions.

Although it was introduced in 1863, cricket is still a relatively minor sport in baseball-mad Japan. There are only about 3,000 cricket players in the country and there is no professional league.

But the sport is starting to make some inroads.

In 2016, the Japan Cricket Association announced plans to build an international standard ground in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. The first such ground in the country, it will be completed and ready to host international tournaments this fall.

And having someone like Kimura enter the sport would be a huge boost for its development.

"There are similarities between the two," Kimura said. "I heard baseball originated from cricket. Cricket isn't popular in Japan but it is around the world and I'm anxious to learn why it is such a popular sport."