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New Cubs pitcher Shōta Imanaga chose his jersey number because of Ben Zobrist

1 month agoAndy Martinez

Shōta Imanaga wanted to do his homework.

After all, deciding to make the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) was a life-changing moment, one that he wanted to get right. So, after meeting with the Cubs and hearing their pitch, he did more background on the Northsiders.

“I knew about the 2016 World Series championship and that left a big impression on me,” Imanaga told reporters through translator Shingo Murata. “The images of the parade — there’s millions and millions of people.”

One player from that team stood out above all others.

“Obviously, Ben Zobrist is an excellent player,” Imanaga said. “He played a lot of roles; he did whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s why that left an impression on me.”

[WATCH: Shōta Imanaga on his jersey number]

So, when he agreed to terms with the Cubs earlier this week and it came time to pick a jersey number, there was no question as to what he’d go with.

“As I was looking through Chicago Cubs history, I saw that it was the number that Ben Zobrist wore,” Imanaga said at his press conference through translator Murata. “I want to be the player that he was and that is why I chose number 18.”

The Cubs, too, are hopeful he can play a pivotal role in helping the Cubs reach the playoffs. Imanaga figures to be a key piece in their rotation, alongside Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Kyle Hendricks and a plethora of intriguing young arms behind them.

[MORE: Shōta Imanaga leaves a lasting impression on Cubs fans]

“To the Cubs fans, I’m going to do my best to contribute to the Cubs winning the World Series,” Imanaga said in his opening statement. “I look forward to meeting you at Wrigley Field.”

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