The life of Atsumasa Chano of Orix, the first rookie to start the season opener in the history of Orix, who “will rise in any company” as a rookie in the developmental framework. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The life of Atsumasa Chano of Orix, the first rookie to start the season opener in the history of Orix, who “will rise in any company” as a rookie in the developmental framework.

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Orix’s Chano (left) and Yamashita (right), who has been in the spotlight this year, are pictured with smiles. Orix’s Chano (left) is pictured smiling with Yamashita (right), who has been in the spotlight this year. In most of the photos of Chano, his uniform is stained with dirt (Photo: Kyodo News)

I’ve been watching on TV for a long time and suddenly I’m here. …… I think the only reason I’ve made it this far is that I’ve been able to swing from the first pitch. Even when I’m in bad shape, I just try to swing at it.

Orix rookie Atsumasa Chano has been doing things that no one could have imagined: he has hit in 14 consecutive games, and his first home run was a grand slam. How did he make his way up to the first-team stage?

Hit a home run off WBC member Udagawa in his first Miyazaki camp

He was a member of the Tokushima Indigo Sox of the Shikoku Island League PLUS last March, and was not a starter for the opening game of the season. He made his first appearance as a substitute in the third game and hit a double to left field. He has a .200 batting average after 15 games through the month of April.

He said, “There are good hitters and the level is high, and all the pitchers are fast. So, I still have a lot of work to do. I thought I had no choice but to keep at it, so I just worked hard.

He was a reserve second baseman at Chukyo High School in Gifu Prefecture, and played second base in his second year at Nagoya University of Commerce, where he won the “Hitting Award” in his second year. In his senior year, he was converted to a right fielder to take advantage of his speed. After graduation, he had hoped to find a job at a company that played baseball for adults, but he was unable to find a suitable job, so Coach Kosuke Akamatsu (now the manager of Meisho University) pushed him to join the Shikoku League. He did not have a shred of confidence.

However, in one year, he has matured greatly, and on June 15, in an interchange game against the Orix second team at City Shinkin Stadium, he showed a strong appeal with four hits, including a two-run shot to right field, four runs batted in, and one stolen base. His 37 stolen bases are good for second in the league. He was the third and last player in the Shikoku League to be selected in the draft, fulfilling his dream of joining the NPB. As he watched the Japan Series on TV, he thought vaguely about how he had to do his best to be there.

At the spring training camp in Miyazaki, Chano’s aggressive attitude caught the attention of the leaders. When he was in the batter’s box, he would start hitting from an early count. In the eyes of Coach Shinji Takahashi, he was clearly different from the other players.

Coach Shinji Takahashi saw a clear difference between him and the other players. The other players were afraid to take a swing. I think he shined the most in a situation where it was difficult for him to show off his strengths. Above all, doesn’t he look like a player who doesn’t put on airs? Among the members of Orix. Of all the players on that field, ……. I think that is the most important thing for this team. That’s why I think Mr. Nakajima is always looking for players like that.”

That greedy attitude continued not just for one day, but for every day: after joining Group A on February 8, he hit a homer to right field off Samurai Japan’s WBC-winning member Yuki Udagawa.

The most difficult time for him was in March, when he entered the open competition. I was in a decidedly different situation than the other players around me. While the team members were in the adjustment stage for the season, I had to accumulate as many hits as possible in order to be registered as a member of the team under the control of the manager. The barrier to the managerial registration, which I had thought would be the most difficult since I joined the team, is now looming right in front of me.

During that March period, I was really focused on the results. I was really focused on the result during that March period. I was more focused on the result in the March period. I think I was more motivated (to go on the offensive) when I was in the Independent League.

On March 24, when his number was changed from 033 to 61, he was not so happy to be under the control of the NPB. The feeling of “Well, now it’s time to start winning” was more important.

A photo taken at the announcement of the new team on November 30 last year. While the top picks in the draft were in the front row, Chano was at the end of the back row, but he rose from there (photo: Kyodo News).

Manager Nakajima’s purpose in selecting Chano

Katsugo Makita, deputy general manager of the organization department, had this to say about the reason for the big selection.

As a point of reinforcement for Orix, we were looking for a different type of player from the ones we have now. He has the legs, strength in his shoulders, ability to make contact when batting, and that aggressiveness. If we could match all of these qualities, he would be able to join our team, which has become the best in Japan, and create an even better sense of competition. I was hoping to be one of them. I think that manager Nakajima saw the high level of ability of the players and decided to develop them through actual competition and to keep them under his control. Of course, there were many good players, but I think Chano was the one he wanted to use under me first.

Still, I didn’t expect him to start the season opener. I was impressed by the way Nakajima made that call,” he said.

On March 31, in the top of the third inning of the first game against Seibu at the Verna Dome, Makita’s first at-bat was an infield single down the third base line. Makita thinks that at bat was everything.

He said, “I got an ‘H’ out of the blue on a bloop ground ball to third base. It was an infield hit, and that was one of the things that made him come alive. I wondered if the baseball gods were watching. I wondered.”

There are players who make a spectacular debut by hitting a home run in their first at-bat. However, there are many such players who struggle in subsequent years.

For Chano, this was his best! He got a hit in his first at-bat. I thought it was a hit that was typical of him and his baseball career. I think it was the first hit of his life as a professional baseball player in uniform.

There is a person who knew Chano well during his college days. One person who knew Chano well during his college days was his seminar advisor, Professor Masamichi Ishii (Faculty of Business Administration, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration). In his senior year, he once gave a presentation of his graduation thesis in front of about 100 people as a representative of the seminar.

He said, “I have mentored 10 to 20 seminar students every year for more than 10 years, and they have achieved the top level of academic achievement among them. If he didn’t study hard every day after baseball practice, he wouldn’t be able to get those grades. I think he is a very serious and hardworking person.”

When Chano came to me to report that he was going to Shikoku to become a professional baseball player, I thought, “He has thought this through very carefully, and I am sure his parents have already persuaded him. Professor Ishii continued.

“I told him, ‘Devote yourself to baseball until you are 26 years old. Even if you don’t make it, you can get a job at a good company. You can concentrate on baseball with peace of mind. I had worked for a publicly traded company for about 20 years, and I have seen a lot of people, so I know that this guy is capable. No matter what company he goes to, he is the type of person who will rise through the ranks as a businessman.

The two months from spring training camp to the open season were certainly hard days. However, they were also two months of success in which he seized his chance. As he continued to swing the bat and aim for control of the team, he kept on inspiring himself to achieve even better results! I kept on inspiring myself. Now, as I feel the joy of playing in front of a big audience, there is something I don’t want to forget because I overcame the obstacles.

I still feel the same way today, but I have always been determined to get the results I wanted. It’s still the same now, but I hope I can keep it going.

Because his name sounds like a military commander, fans have been calling him “Atsumasa-dono! because his name is like a military commander’s. When asked how he feels about this, he replied, “Not at all. When asked how he feels about this, he laughs and says, “It doesn’t ring a bell at all. He is not a military commander yet. He is a young warrior who continues to swing the bat boldly.

Chano hit a home run in an interchange game with the Orix second team last year (photo by Hiroshi Takada).
Orix coach Shinji Takahashi, who coached Chano in the second team (Photo by Hiroshi Takada)
Chano was interviewed during a break in pre-game practice (Photo by Hiroshi Takada)
  • Interview and text Hiroshi Takada

    Sports writer

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