Chunichi Hirata is dissatisfied, but Uchikawa and Shima are thrilled: “Why the difference between the two is so great after the departure of Hirata and Shima”.
Hirata said, “I was told (by the baseball team), ‘We can’t hold a big ceremony. （There were (commemorative) T-shirts and towels, a video was shown, and we talked near the mound. I thought that would be the end for me. …… I felt that it was not the end of my 17-year baseball career, so that was the reason (for my resignation).”
Ryosuke Hirata (34), who was notified by Chunichi on October 4 that he was no longer a member of the team, spoke tearfully at a press conference.
According to Hirata, one of the factors in his decision to leave the team was the team’s refusal to hold a grand retirement event. Some on the Internet voiced their sympathy, saying, “Chunichi is not that cold” to a man who had achieved a total of 1,046 hits and 105 home runs in his career with Chunichi. Hirata intends to wait for offers from other teams in order to continue his career.
Hirata himself must have been surprised because the fuss became so loud. The next day (May 5), he updated his Instagram page and explained, “Yesterday was my press conference. I am sorry for the trouble I caused at my press conference yesterday. The media focused only on the ceremony, but I did not choose to sign a free-agent contract because of the content of the ceremony (proposed by the baseball team).
Hirata entered the game against Yakult on September 17 as a substitute but struck out swinging. Immediately after that, manager Kazuyoshi Tachinami asked him to resign from the lineup. The team did not refuse the ceremony itself, but proposed a plan in which he would take one at-bat, greet the fans, receive a bouquet of flowers from his family, and make a lap around the field,” said a baseball team official.
He loves the Dragons, but he is not a fan of other teams. ……
Hirata’s dissatisfaction with the way he was treated may have led to his comments at the press conference. However, even with the support of the fans, there are likely to be some lingering issues in the future.
Hirata was sluggish last season, with a batting average in the 10% range. He became ill and was diagnosed with atypical angina pectoris in July. Even so, Chunichi continued to sign him and even used him in the first team, although his opportunities to play were decreasing. However, his performance this season was also poor, with a 20% batting average, one home run, and 10 runs batted in. If he left the team because he “couldn’t make a big ceremony,” it could be taken as selfishness.
On his Instagram the day after the press conference, he wrote, “I love the Dragons,” and “I am sincerely grateful to the team and manager Tatsunami,” but it is hard to understand why he would want to continue his career with another team. Hirata is not a selfish person, but he is the type of person who speaks out loud and clearly. If other teams see Hirata as a “selfish player,” they may hesitate to acquire him. There is also uncertainty about his future as a coach.
On the other hand, some players retired with a good feeling. They are Seiichi Uchikawa (40), Tomotaka Sakaguchi (38), and Motohiro Shima (37), who retired from Yakult. They each went to bat in the final game of the season against DeNA on October 3. After the game, they circled the field and were moved to tears by the warm cheers of the fans.
The message from manager Shingo Takatsu to the three players was probably the most moving. At the retirement ceremony, he spoke in his own original words as follows.
Uchikawa. In 2008, you hit .370, the highest batting average by a right-handed hitter, and you were the leading hitter in both leagues. You were the top hitter in both leagues and had the most hits ……. I think he was a great hitter who will remain in both records and memory.
Gucci, Sakaguchi. A man who somehow retains a sense of Showa Era. He is gone now, but as the last player of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, I think the fans that still remain are sad to see him go and give you a big round of applause. And Shima. Everyone saw it. We saw your bottom line. Thank you so much for your hard work.
“I will leave a legacy of people above all else.”
The phrase “bottom-line power” is a line from a famous speech that Shima gave before a charity game immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011: “Let’s show them the bottom-line power of baseball. Why was it possible for Yakult to send off retired players with such emotion and good feelings?
It is because Manager Takatsu thinks of the team as his family, and he takes good care of them. He often says, ‘I want to make the team a place where people look forward to coming to the stadium every day. There is no awkward atmosphere, and the players, regardless of age, get along very well, as evidenced by 22-year-old Munetaka Murakami, the main gunner, teasing Tetsuto Yamada, who is in his 30s, and Norichika Aoki, who is in his 40s.
At the root of Manager Takatsu’s philosophy is that of his mentor, Katsuya Nomura. Mr. Nomura believed that people are the greatest asset. In baseball, it is the players. There is a saying by Shinpei Goto, a politician active from the Meiji era to the early Showa era, that Nomu-san liked. He said, “To bequeath one’s wealth is to bequeath the bottom, to bequeath one’s work is to bequeath the middle, and to bequeath one’s people is to bequeath the top. Nomu’s teachings must have permeated the Yakult organization.
Hirata’s decision to leave the team was certainly due in part to his own problems, but it is also believed to have been caused by the way the team informed him that they could not hold a grand ceremony. The “light and dark” over Hirata’s departure from the team. It may not be a coincidence that the two teams were the one that won the league championship two years in a row and the other that finished at the bottom of the standings.
Photo: Kyodo News, Inc.： Kyodo News, Jiji Press