“Rakuten’s Worst Hapless Draftee” and Former Pitcher, Now a TBS Employee | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“Rakuten’s Worst Hapless Draftee” and Former Pitcher, Now a TBS Employee

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Terada now works for TBS (photo, editorial board)

He must have mistakenly designated a different player for the same pitcher.

Ten years have passed since he retired from professional baseball, but there is a former professional baseball player who is still a topic of conversation among professional baseball fans. He is Ryuhei Terada, 33, who was selected first in the 2007 high school draft by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The ace, who led Sapporo Minami High School, the best preparatory school in Hokkaido, to the top four in the South Hokkaido Tournament, was selected as the first pick out of Yuki Sato (now of the Saitama Musashi Heat Bears) because of his height of 185 cm and a fastball with a maximum speed of 145 km. However, he never made a pitching appearance for the first team, and in 2011, he was notified that he was out of the lineup. While other players of his generation, such as Sho Nakata (Giants) and Yuki Karakawa (Lotte), were active as mainstays of the professional baseball team, Terada changed jobs and now works for TBS, a key station in Tokyo. We asked him about his struggles during his working years and how he later “changed careers.

–I have to ask you this, but are you aware that your name is still being mentioned on the Internet?

Yes, I am aware of it. It’s listed in places like “Who was the most unlucky DRA1 of all time? Last year, Hokkaido’s first high school graduate in a long time (*Yuta Saito, pitcher; Tomakomai Chuo High School→’09) was selected. When the news came out that the first high school graduate from Hokkaido (*Yuta Saito, pitcher from Tomakomai Chuo High School, drafted by Hiroshima in 2010) had been drafted since Masahiro Tanaka (Komadai Tomakomai → Rakuten) in 2006 and Ryuhei Terada in 2007, the article asked, “Who’s Terada? (laughter).

–Sapporo Minami High School is a super-progressive school that has produced 18 students who were accepted to the University of Tokyo in 2011 and 84 students who were accepted to Hokkaido University, a local university. On the day of the draft, were you waiting for the so-called “pick”?

“On that day, I was playing a basketball game at a ball game. Of course, I was planning to become a pro, but I couldn’t even make it to Koshien, and after I read in the newspaper or something that Nichiham (a local baseball team) had taken Terada off their pick list,” I thought, “Maybe I won’t make it this year. Then a girl in my class came up next to me and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I wondered if she was talking about basketball, but then I heard that I had been selected first in the draft.”

At that time, Sapporo Minami High School asked me if I was ready to be a ronin before joining the baseball team. There was no sports recommendation, so I studied hard in junior high school and entered the school, but I was immersed in baseball for three years.

In the fall of my sophomore year, my straight ball started to reach 140 km/h, and I began to think about going pro. But before that, my first goal was to make it to the Koshien National Championships. I was no different from other high school baseball players in that respect. In the end, I never stood on the mound at Koshien even after I became a professional baseball player.

–In 2007, Rakuten was in its third year of existence. The previous year’s Dora 1 was Tanaka, a pitcher who had wowed the Koshien Stadium, so there must have been a lot of pressure on you.

To be honest, I didn’t have that in mind. I was not aware of it because I was the outlier No. 1 and because of the Separate Draft (held from 2005 to 2007, with high school, college, and adult players drafted separately). I took it as a lower draft, in effect, because it was a separate draft for high school, college, and adult players.

After entering the professional world, many things were difficult. While there were players who weighed over 100 kg, (my coach) told me to gain weight, no matter what. It is harder to gain weight than to lose it if you eat a lot of fried food and rice anyway and are hard to gain weight. Kazuo Matsui (current manager of Seibu), who was on the same team for the last year, had an amazing body. He was literally muscular.

Katsuya Nomura (84 years old) was the manager when I joined the team, but I don’t remember talking with him much. I don’t really remember talking to him. He was just above my head.

In December 2007, during the press conference announcing Rakuten’s draft entry under the regime of manager Katsuya Nomura (84 years old). In the front row, on the far left is Kohei Hasebe, 38, the pitcher drafted by Taisha, and on the far right is Mr. Terada (photo by Kyodo News).

Q: From a preparatory school to the pros, didn’t you have anyone you could talk to about your career?

In high school baseball clubs, the culture was such that you could say what you thought to your seniors, but that is not the case in the pros. There are players of a wider range of ages than in high school, and even if you don’t take offense, your attitude can be taken badly by your seniors. Unlike in high school, I had to adjust to the hierarchical relationship. I think so now.

My coach told me at every turn, “Don’t cut corners. That is exactly what I did. I practiced seriously until I collapsed, but in the coach’s eyes, I probably thought I could still do it.

If you think of baseball as a job, a young second-stringer can work 30 straight games. If they have a good track record, they can have a rest day after a start and take the whole practice day off, but sometimes that’s not possible for youngsters, and they have to go out to practice. Perhaps because I was exhausted every day, my immune system weakened and I caught a cold, and in my second year I also developed shingles.

As I continued to live like this, I lost the feeling of pitching that I had when I was good in high school. At first I felt that my fingers were not catching the ball properly, and I tried to correct it, but it fell apart even more. It was a vicious cycle.

In your third year as a professional player, in 2010, you changed your form to a sidethrow.

My coach recommended that I change my form, but for a second-round pitcher, form modification is a last resort. If the change does not produce results, it is the end of the world. However, I could not refuse the change. In the last season, I did it thinking, “If this doesn’t work anymore, there is nothing I can do,” but by the fall I knew (that I would be fired) by the way I used the pitching.

I felt that I had “done it all,” so I decided to retire without even trying out. I was interested in the world outside of baseball, and that was one of the reasons I did not hold on to my current position.

Even if I had done well in the pros, I can’t imagine if I would have been able to stay active until this age. Anyway, the pros are a world where you can’t be licked, because it uses not only your ability but also your mentality.

Q: During your time in the pros, you entered the e-school (correspondence course) of Waseda University’s School of Human Sciences, which seems like an unusual choice for a former professional baseball player.

In my first year as a professional player, I was told at a players’ meeting that there was a way for high school graduates to attend college through correspondence, so I enrolled in the program in my second year as a professional player. I don’t think there were any other professional baseball players of my generation, and in my first year, when I wasn’t doing well, I thought, “What’s different from when I was in high school? One of the reasons I went to e-school was because I went to a school that emphasized both the liberal arts and the martial arts, and I thought I could redeem myself by putting myself in an academic environment that was similar to my high school days.

I would attend lectures in the dormitory or at the hotel where I was going on an expedition, but I had to decline the meal invitations of the seniors in the room I was sharing with, saying, “I have class today. Naturally, my seniors would snicker at me. I was once told, “You must be thinking about what you will do after you quit.

Second-team players play under the pressure of not knowing whether they will be able to continue playing baseball next season. One of my seniors, who was a good friend of mine, once said to me in front of everyone, “It’s OK for you to quit baseball because you have a job, but we are desperately clinging to baseball. I thought I was desperately trying to hang on to baseball too, but maybe that is how it looked to those around me.

In the end, I graduated from Waseda University in my second year after changing careers from professional baseball to general business. I was a “former professional baseball player with a college degree prospect,” but I was hired by an IT infrastructure company.

Q: Your life must have changed drastically.

First of all, I was impressed by the fact that I had consecutive holidays (laughs). There were days when work ended around midnight, but I didn’t have to deal with customers cursing at me or writing bad things about me on blogs. I was free from pressure.

I hid the fact that I was a professional baseball player from my peers for a while. In case you are wondering, I wonder how that can be concealed even though I am a DRA1 (laughs). But right after I retired, I felt that I did not want to live my life relying on the title of “former professional baseball player.

To be honest, I couldn’t watch baseball games for a while. I couldn’t look directly at the success of my peers. But gradually, I came to be able to watch baseball purely as a sport, and I decided that I wanted to work in a job related to sports. Then I decided to change jobs to work for an athlete management company.

Q. Why did you join TBS after working for an advertising agency?

When I was working for a management company, I realized that athletes are paid by sponsors. I then became aware of how interesting the advertising industry was, and switched to an advertising agency. At first, I thought, “The future belongs to online advertising rather than TV,” but when I started working there, I realized that TV advertising was still more influential.

At TBS, too, I belong to a department involved in digital advertising. Professional sports are increasingly being distributed for a fee, and I hope that I can redefine the value of sports and boost it once again. Eventually, I may end up on the production side. …… I hear that you will be in charge of the popular special program, “Pro Baseball Out-of-Favor Notice”. I am sure I understand better than any of my colleagues the feelings of a player who has been ruled out of the lineup.

Q: Now that you have regained your student baseball eligibility, you teach baseball to children in your off time. What did baseball teach you?

I belong to the Nippon Professional Baseball Alumni Club and participate in baseball lessons about three times a year. I believe that “love is the key to success,” so I don’t give strict instructions, but just try to make it fun and exciting to play.

What baseball has taught me: It’s difficult. Baseball has longer hours than any other group sport. The game time is long and the practice time is long. I think baseball is the only group sport where you practice from morning till night. A place where you learn how to interact with people over a long period of time – I think that’s what baseball has taught me.

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