The end of the year 2022 was marked by the success of Japan’s national soccer team in the World Cup, but until then, the sports world had been dominated by the news of baseball players. New beginnings, family troubles, and frictions among players…… introduced the 6th to 4th place in a wide variety of sports news.
No.6 Yuki Saito reveals 15 years of carrying “Prince Handkerchief” on his back and his second life
＜Yuki Saito, 33, retired after pitching in a game against the Orix on October 17, 2009. The story of “Prince Handkerchief,” which began in the summer of 2006 at Koshien, came to an end with a four-ball game. ＞The story of “Handkerchief Prince” came to a close with a fore-ball.
After completing treatment for a torn right elbow ligament, I went to see my parents when the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters gave me a chance to play one more year. It was around December of 2008. I told them, “If I can’t produce results in the ’21 season, I will quit. My father encouraged me, saying, “I am ready, so do your best to contribute to the Fighters as much as you can. He did not look pathetic, but calm. I think my father was more grateful than I was for the many people who supported my son, who was unable to play such an active role.
The ligaments in my right elbow were connected and the pain was gone, but the damage to my right shoulder was out of control.’ In September of ’21, I decided to retire and went to see my parents again.
I am going to retire. Thank you for all the support you have given me.
As soon as I arrived at the table, I told them that I was going to retire. My father said, “I am glad that you have allowed me to play baseball this far,” and my mother said, “Be thankful to all of you and do your best until the end. They seemed somewhat relieved.
Life is a series of choices – there are too many to mention, but the biggest was the change of form in the spring of my senior year of high school.
I participated in the 2006 Spring National Championships, but lost in the quarterfinals against Yokohama High School in a “cold” game (3-13). I was devastated and thought, “If we continue like this, we may make it to the Koshien in the summer, but we will never win the championship. While I was searching for something to change, a senior member of the Waseda University baseball team came to coach me and gave me a video clip of Mr. Satake’s (Katsutoshi, 38, Waseda University → Toyota Motor Corporation) pitching. He bent his legs and sank into his pitching position, which became the model for my later form.
There were videos of other pitchers, and manager Minoru Izumi (60) advised me to learn the sinker, but it was Satake’s form that stuck with me.
The reason that stuck with me was “Why do you pitch with such a unique form? The answer was, “Because I can throw with my hip joints locked in. I didn’t understand the logic behind it, but when I tried it out in the bullpen, it felt good. With almost no time left before the summer tournament, the change in form was a gamble.
Even after the qualifying rounds for the tournament had begun, he was still unable to get used to his new form. In the semifinals of the Koshien Tournament (vs. Kagoshima Takumi, with a score of 5-0), he was finally able to get it right. The score was 5-0), I finally got a feel for it. Until then, my fastball’s maximum velocity was 145 km/h, but I could only get it if I swung my arm as hard as I could. Now I can throw 145 km/h with ease. I was able to throw more than I was swinging my arm at. This was a great discovery. Coach Izumi noticed it from the bench, and after Koshien was over, he said, “That semifinal was probably the best game of the three years.
<On the other hand, we also asked him about “choices that were failures. For example, in the summer of his junior year in high school, when he won the Koshien Championship by defeating Masahiro Tanaka (33, Rakuten), was it right that he chose to go on to Waseda University instead of submitting his application to become a professional baseball player? ＞I don’t know.
Even now, I don’t regret my choice even 1%. When I won the championship at Koshien, the thing I lacked most was confidence. I was hailed as “Prince Handkerchief,” but at the same time I felt that I was “too good” and that life was not that sweet. Even if I had gone pro right after graduating from high school, I might have been able to win for at least one year. However, if he were to continue doing so, he was acutely aware that it would be difficult with the muscle strength and stamina he had at the time. I needed four years of college to study my body more and strengthen it.
Rather, my biggest regret is the choice I made in the last half of the ’12 season. My right shoulder was still tired and I had a bad feeling that my muscles were sore all the time, but I didn’t stop throwing. That year, in my second year as a pro, I was the starting pitcher and won five games. However, in the second half of the season, I lost my form and was not a competitive pitcher. I practiced because I could not get results. But the results still weren’t there, so I practiced again, and repeated the process.
He lied to the trainer, saying, “My shoulder is a little tight, so please loosen it up. If only I had had the courage to report my breakdown and had been able to take care of my shoulder. …… However, if I could go back in time and see me back then, the Saito of ’12 would not listen to me. He was that stubborn or desperate.
＜Saito’s vision for the future was “to win double-digit games for many years in the professional baseball rotation,” but his professional record was 15 wins and 26 losses. His professional record was 15 wins and 26 losses, with a 4.34 earned-run average.
On December 10, he established “Yuki Saito Co. Saito says, “I want to be able to take some action within a year. We have made some suggestions from this magazine on what he should accomplish in his second life. > –Sports caster for the Olympics and other events.
–Sportscaster, such as the Olympics.
It is an option in terms of studying other sports. Some people don’t want to be on the stage after they retire, but I don’t think so. On the contrary, there are places I can’t go and people I can’t meet without the help of TV and other media. I would like to be allowed to use that in a positive way.
–I am a variety entertainer.
I wonder if I can make a witty comment. ……
Actually, there was an offer. There was, but I turned it down saying, “I don’t have a track record in professional baseball. No matter what I said, it wouldn’t be persuasive, would it? He followed up by saying, “That’s not true,” but it is! (laugh). (Laughs.) I need to study more and be able to explain based on data. There is a belief that people who think about baseball 24 hours a day, whether they are asleep or awake, will make it big in the pros, but I think this is just a result theory. A little kid who takes it seriously should not continue to pitch and lose his baseball career even though he feels uncomfortable like I do. Perhaps there is a key to success in brain science. I would like to collect such hints.
–If you can talk about it with evidence, you might be able to persuade Yuki Saito in 2012.
Yes, I can! (Laughs)
–How do you feel about coaching Waseda?
There may come a time when I would like to try it, but not at this time.
–Producing a yakiniku restaurant.
Huhaha! I can’t afford it, and I don’t have any offers.
Oooh. It’s true that some professional baseball players are good at golf, but I just play it as a hobby.
–I’m just doing it as a hobby.
I think it would be a wonderful job as a youtuber ……, but not at this stage.
<BR>_ Since joining the pro ranks, Saito has not performed as well as he would have liked, and when articles about him appeared on the Internet, they were met with a firestorm of criticism. Whenever an article about Saito appeared on the Internet, it was met with a firestorm of vitriol and eye-rolling invective. Why doesn’t Saito try to distance himself from baseball? >
For the past four or five years, former manager Hideki Kuriyama (60) has said to me whenever something happened.
I know you are going through a hard time right now, but Yuki has a responsibility to show everyone how he works hard and gets covered in mud.
I was so happy to hear that. All my evil thoughts disappeared.
–You must have had a tough baseball life, being burdened with the cross of “Prince Handkerchief.
Everyone says so, but it was certainly difficult because I was desperate to produce results, but I was happy to be able to play baseball, which I love, for such a long time.
From an article published in FRIDAY Digital on January 8, 2022
No. 5 Bad Mouthing at Invitational Seats …… Trouble Casebook of “Wives of Professional Baseball Players
Misae Eto, wife of Sousuke Genda of the Saitama Seibu Lions, one of baseball’s leading playmakers, and a former member of Nogizaka46. A report in the weekly Bunshun revealed that she had been slandered by the wife of teammate Harusyo Yamada, an infielder. On September 21, the day of the report, Genda explained the contents of the report on his Instagram, in which he even announced that he had consulted the baseball team, saying, “Please don’t take baseball away from the player in question (Yamada).
Make sure you educate your mother well.”
A reporter for a sports newspaper revealed, “The players’ wives’ disputes have caused the players’ wives to be in conflict with each other.
There have been stories before about players’ wives’ disputes affecting the departure of players and coaches. Last year, Atsunori Inaba, who led the Samurai Japan team to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, was said to be the most likely candidate to become the new manager of Nippon Ham, but as a result, he settled for GM and was replaced by Tsuyoshi Shinjo, the big boss. This was due in no small part to the fact that the previous year, in the fall of 2020, a report in the Weekly Bunshun revealed that Director Inaba’s wife had repeatedly harassed a couple of three junior players who belonged to Nippon Ham at the time, in a manner that could be taken as power harassment. Of the three juniors, there were rumors about Naoo Miyanishi, who still remains at Nichi-Ham, that if Inaba had taken over as manager, Miyanishi would have disappeared from Nichi-Ham.
The reports about GM Inaba and Miyanishi were an example of wives slandering each other, which ultimately affected the departure of their husbands. The fact is that in the world of professional baseball, there is a tendency to ask “What will happen to Yamada? In fact, there are quite a few cases of troubles caused by such “wives of players” in the world of professional baseball. A former employee of a baseball team in eastern Japan revealed the following.
There was a time when Ms. C, the wife of a player on the same team, B, was furious with A, a major player who had played for more than 20 years in the pros and had won the home run and runs batted in titles. B was the type of player who could lead the team in both play and personality, and he had even served as the team’s player president. His wife, Mrs. C, was so enthusiastic that she would come to support B even on regional tours. However, when B became the president of the team, he felt that he had to lead the team as well, and he began to behave in an arrogant manner. He wanted to control the “relaxation room,” which was only for the players and their families, and other players complained about his behavior.
One time, Mr. C acted in a way that angered A at an invitational table at his home stadium.
Mr. C, who had come to the invitation seating to watch B’s game, was chatting with people around him whom he knew well. So, in the course of the conversation, he said something bad that offended A. This was overheard by A because a guest that A had invited happened to be sitting nearby. A knew not only that he had been spoken ill of, but also that there had been complaints about Mr. C from other players. So, as a key player on the team, he couldn’t help but say it. As soon as he found B in the players’ waiting room, he was furious, saying, ‘You, make sure you educate your mother properly.
The wife of a former manager is ……
A person involved in the baseball world who knows about the incident overheard the following.
After A became angry, Mr. C did not act so brazenly anymore, and the team did not lose any games, so the matter was resolved, but a slight disturbance in the atmosphere can affect morale. Managers and coaches are just as much on the lookout for behavior that disturbs the atmosphere of the team as they are for improving the skills of their players and developing winning strategies.
Furthermore, Mr. D’s wife, Mrs. E, who was the manager of a certain baseball team, was also a woman who was always rumored to be a rumor in the baseball world. Another person involved with a certain baseball team revealed, “After Mrs. D retired as a player, she became a coaching coach.
After retiring as a player, Mrs. D worked as a coach before becoming a manager, and as her husband rose in the ranks, Mrs. E also “became a great person. She became the center of a group of wives in a room in the baseball team’s facility where children were also allowed. Not only in the baseball world, but there are often stories of power relations among mothers at parks and other places, and a similar kind of “pecking order” among players’ wives somehow formed. One player’s wife, who was innocently letting her child play without knowing it, was horrified when Mr. E asked her, “Why are you in there without permission? I also heard that one player’s wife, who was unaware of this, was horrified when Mr. E said something like, “Why are you in there without permission?
Mr. D himself is not a bad character and is well-liked, but Mr. E’s reputation was not so good. However, Mr. D is famous for being a horrible wife. …… He knew he had to be careful, but he couldn’t say it; Mr. D’s older players and coaches often teased him about being a wife-beater (laughs).”
It’s all good as long as it ends in laughter, but “controlling” a player’s wife may be more difficult than coaching the player.
From an article published in FRIDAY Digital on September 24, 2022
No. 4 “Two unforgivable people” prevented Shogo Akiyama’s return to Seibu after his debut with Hiroshima
Shogo Akiyama, 34, made his return to Japanese baseball after two and a half years in the U.S. After four games with the second team, he was promoted to the first team for the game against Chunichi on August 8 at the Bantelin Dome, as manager Shinji Sasaoka had announced. In his third game, on the 10th, he caught a fly to right field and threw it directly back to home base. He also showed off his offensive and defensive abilities with a laser beam that he used to hit a runner at third base who was trying to touch up the ball.
Why didn’t Akiyama wear the blue uniform of his old team, Seibu, which was considered to be his best bet?
Some say it was because he did not want to take his junior teammate’s position, or because Hiroshima had Ryosuke Kikuchi and Tsubasa Aizawa, who played with him in the Samurai Japan team. However, the TV person asserted, “That was not the only reason he made the decision.
When Akiyama decided to return to the Japanese baseball world, Seibu was the first to approach him and showed its sincerity, but in direct negotiations it offered him a two-year contract that included this season, half of which had already passed. It was obvious that SoftBank would offer him a large contract of more than three years, but this offer shows that they were not serious,” said a TV insider.
At the Seibu Holdings shareholders’ meeting on June 22, he said, ‘I sincerely hope to win this contract. I want him to lead the Lions to a championship as a candidate for future manager. There were questions from shareholders such as, ‘Don’t let Softbank catch him. The fans’ desire for the return of the former team leader was strong, and it is likely that he was just trying to look good. It is possible that Seibu did not really want Akiyama back.
Akiyama himself also told people around him that “there are people who don’t think well of my returning to Seibu,” hinting at the existence of a “rift” between him and his old team.
The history of the rift goes back to four years ago,” said a desk clerk at a sports newspaper. It started four years ago at the 2018 Japan-U.S. Baseball Tournament. Including Akiyama, Hotaka Yamakawa (30), the Pacific League home run king who leads the current Seibu team, and regular catcher Tomoya Mori (26) were also selected as members of the team.
Shogo Akiyama (front row, third from left) and Seibu’s Yamakawa and Mori (back row, third and fourth from left) won the NPB Awards’ Pacific League Best Nine at a Tokyo hotel in 2019. It is believed that cracks had already appeared at this time.
Yamakawa was held in check at the tournament, allowing just four hits in 19 at-bats, and Mori was able to produce a .333 batting average with four hits in 12 at-bats, but as catchers, they were unable to catch national-class balls properly.
Nevertheless, in 2019, Mori won the Pacific League MVP award, and Yamakawa won the home run crown for the second year in a row with 43 homers, making them the top players of the year in both name and reality. In the fall of that year, the second edition of the Premier 12 international tournament was held. Four years earlier, Japan had finished third in the previous tournament, losing to South Korea in the semifinals, and the national team wanted to win the tournament by any means necessary.
However, “The selection of Yamakawa and Mori was necessary for the strength of the team, but we received a call from them declining due to poor conditions. The leaders at the time were embarrassed, but accepted the fact that injuries could not be helped,” recalled an official involved with the Japan team. In the end, Akiyama, Sousuke Genda (29), and Shuta Tonozaki (29) were selected from Seibu and went to the tournament, but behind the scenes, there was a situation that infuriated Akiyama. A representative of the team revealed, “Mori, who withdrew from the tournament, was furious with himself.
Mori, who withdrew from the tournament, posted a video on his Instagram page showing him practicing a full swing without worrying about his leg, with messages such as, ‘I’m practicing as hard as I can. Yamakawa was also shown practicing with him without worrying about his injury. Although they ostensibly cited their injuries as the reason, it is highly possible that they actually did not want to participate in the tournament. When some of the national players saw the post, they said, ‘What the heck. I thought you were injured?’ Akiyama, who had strong feelings for the national team, asked Mori and Yamakawa after the tournament, “What does this mean? You withdrew from the tournament because you were injured. There are people who entered the tournament in your place! They said, “We are not the only ones who have left the tournament.
Akiyama also broke the tip of his right toe when he was hit by a dead ball in a training match before the start of the Premier 12 tournament. Although he had to withdraw from the tournament in tears, Kikuchi and other members of the national team took the initiative to display Akiyama’s uniform on the bench to show their bond with him. Akiyama even dragged his broken leg to the victory rally after the team won the tournament. Atsunori Inaba, 49, the general manager of Nippon Ham, who was the national team manager at the time, did not mention Yamakawa and Mori’s names when selecting members for the Tokyo Olympics , saying, “We will not select players who cannot take the Hinomaru seriously,” but he did criticize their attitude.
“Akiyama told the two, who were full of excuses, ‘Forget it. Do whatever you want. The two men continued to make excuses, and Akiyama told them, “That’s enough. Akiyama later moved to the Reds, while Yamakawa and Mori became the mainstream leaders of the Seibu team. It is true that there was no longer any place for Akiyama at Seibu.
However, if he moved to Softbank, where the conditions were better, he would be competing in the Pacific League, the same league as Seibu. Akiyama, who was concerned about the feelings of the fans, had no choice but to make an enemy of his old club. On the other hand, Hiroshima had Kikuchi and Aizawa, who had worn the national team uniform together and knew each other well. The friendships nurtured under the Japanese flag provided a safe haven for Akiyama. The choice that surprised everyone around him was inevitable.
From an article published in FRIDAY Digital on July 12, 2022
Photo： Hiroyuki Komatsu Kyodo News Co.：