The contents of the “secret advice” given by Shoichi Sakurai to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The contents of the “secret advice” given by Shoichi Sakurai to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo

After moving to the Pirates, he hit 8 home runs and was in great shape. Behind his resurgence, there was an unknown cross-industrial exchange.

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“He seemed to think it would be rude to ask me for advice, so when we first met, he was reserved and hardly spoke to me. When I first met him, he was reserved and hardly spoke to me. Seeing him like that, I thought he was a cute guy, and I wanted him to bloom somehow. That’s why I’m really happy to see how he’s doing now.

In the dimly lit basement of an apartment building close to Machida Station in Tokyo, there is the Jakki Ryu Hando Mahjong Dojo, Tile No Oto. Shoichi Sakurai, 78, the undefeated “Janki” for 20 years, began to talk slowly while smoking purple smoke in front of the reporters who visited this place.

Sakurai says he comes to the dojo three times a week. In front of him is the first commemorative bat given to him by Tsutsuka.

Yoshitomo Tsutsuka, 29, was in a slump last season in his first year in the majors, with a batting average in the 10% range, and was out of the lineup twice this season, but when he joined the Pirates in August, he went on a rampage, hitting eight home runs in 31 games. Behind his seemingly miraculous comeback, there seems to have been an unknown interaction with Mr. Sakurai.

Tsutsuka, who is such a fan of Mr. Sakurai that he has read almost all of his books, visited the dojo in November last year.

He said, “I got a call through an acquaintance saying, ‘I want to meet you. He brought me some sweets as a gift, but I jokingly asked him, ‘Do you have any baseball-related gifts? I jokingly asked him if he had any baseball souvenirs, and he said in a low voice, “Yes. He ran very fast and brought me a baseball bat from the car outside. I thought he was a good person, smiling.

Last November must have been the most troubled time for him, as he finished the season without any results. Mr. Sakurai, who knew Tsutsuka’s honest personality, gave him advice for three hours.

He said, “In exercise, ‘handling’ is important. In mahjong, the beautiful way to handle tiles is to not grab them. By not grabbing the tiles, you are free and can play with your senses instead of thinking with your head. People who have maintained their strength in mahjong for a long time all have beautiful “Tile Handling.

I conveyed this idea of “handling” to Mr. Tsutsuka. When he showed me his batting motion at the dojo, his neck and shoulders were in a painful shape, and I felt that it would be difficult for him to handle a pitcher’s ball. I felt that it would be difficult for him to handle pitches. When we’re anxious, we exert ourselves, but exerting ourselves is the worst thing you can do.

After that, Mr. Sakurai continued to convey the secret of “handling” to Tsutsuka in the U.S. via videophone. Then, on August 21, Tsutsuka got his long-awaited first hit after moving to the United States.

He said, “I had promised that if I hit a home run, I would give the bat to the chairman (Mr. Sakurai), and he really did, just as he said. He really gave it to me, just as he said. It was a tattered and dirty bat. I was so happy when I saw it. I felt that he must have practiced hard. When I saw my first home run, everyone in the dojo gave a Hail Mary, and I felt like I was saved by that one.

Janki is behind the revival. Surprisingly, it was a legend of the mahjong world who saved the troubled slugger.

In November last year, Tsutsuka visited Mr. Sakurai and received his advice. Mr. Sakurai said that he felt that Tsutsuka was straining his form.
Tsutsuka interacted with the dojo students, including wrestling with them. You can see how well he got to know Mr. Sakurai.

From “FRIDAY” October 15, 2021 issue

  • PHOTO Shinji Hamasaki (1st photo)

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