The All-Japan University Baseball Championship will be held from June 5, and 27 schools will compete for the top spot in Japan. A baseball insider said, “He is a big left-handed pitcher of 181 cm.
He is a large left-handed pitcher of 181 cm and can throw a 150-kilogram straight ball. The local Nippon Ham baseball team’s GM, Atsunori Inaba, is said to have come to see him, as well as the Giants and Yakult, the reigning Central League champions. Scouts from all the teams except Softbank have come to see him.
Takita is from Suttsu High School, a public high school in Hokkaido with only 63 students. Located roughly in the middle of the coastline between Hakodate and Otaru, it is 150 kilometers from Sapporo, about a three-hour drive. Takita was eliminated from the chapter tournament in his senior year of high school before taking on the Hokkaido tournament. Naturally, he was a nobody.
Someone had found a talent that would normally be overlooked. Itaru Ninomiya, manager of Seisa Dodo-Dai. After retiring from the Giants, he worked as a base coach for Chunichi and as a manager of DeNA’s second team. When he went to see the players of Hokusho High School, a 10-time Koshien champion, he found that Takita was playing “No. 1 pitcher” for his opponent, Kotobuki High School. A baseball official in Hokkaido revealed.
Takita is a tall left-handed pitcher, over 180 cm, and a No. 1 hitter. In other words, he was fast. Manager Ninomiya seemed to sense his athletic potential in the speed of his feet as well as the way he threw. However, Takita was raised by a single mother and had six siblings, and considering his financial situation, he planned to quit baseball after graduating from high school and start working. Manager Ninomiya persuaded him to enter the school.
In high school, his straight ball, which had a maximum velocity of about 137 kilometers, grew to 150 kilometers. Just as the talent that coach Ninomiya saw in him was beginning to bud, he encountered an incident that sent him to the bottom of the barrel again. His mother, who had raised him single-handedly, died of a myocardial infarction in May of last year. Takita told the Hokkaido Shimbun, “I worked from 5:00 in the morning to 1:00 in the evening.”
I was playing baseball because I wanted to somehow make it easier for my mother, who worked from 5 a.m. to past 1 a.m., by going pro. When I lost that goal, it was really hard, and I wanted to quit baseball.
Takita managed to keep his deep sorrow deep in his heart and continued to play baseball, but on August 14 of last year, a major turning point came for him. In the Tanchou League, which brings together 16 professional and amateur teams in the summer resort city of Kushiro, Hokkaido, Takita struck out 10 and allowed no runs in six innings against SoftBank’s third-place team. Softbank actually played against Takita at the time before he attracted attention, and took a close look at him. The man who failed to advance to the prefectural tournament is the focus of attention by 12 baseball teams. A Hokkaido baseball official revealed, “Even though he was in the third team, he was still a good hitter.
He was able to beat out the promising prospects from Softbank with his fastball over 150 km/h and his change-up. This game led to whispers of Takita’s existence among people in the baseball world.
At the time he pitched well, it had been only about three months since Takita lost his mother. Takita overcame a period in which he wanted to quit baseball, and the fact that he produced a result against a professional reserve team shows his extraordinary determination to somehow feed his family.
The All-Japan Collegiate Baseball Tournament, which will be held at Jingu Stadium and Tokyo Dome starting on March 5, will be his first national tournament. If Takita can pitch well enough to help his team advance to the next round, he could be a top candidate for the fall draft. A former professional baseball coach who saw Takita throw well said, “The way he throws now, everything is still working.”
If he is to be able to consistently produce results in the pros for a year, he will have to learn to put more effort into the most important part of his game, such as at the moment of release (releasing the ball), or he will start to lose his balance. But that is something you can learn naturally when you join the pros and practice with other players. In that sense, I feel I still have room to grow.
Can a man who has been in the predicament of quitting baseball many times spin a Cinderella story on the national hinoki-stage?