Why Rintaro Sasaki, who has hit 138 balls in total, is “still the real thing”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Rintaro Sasaki, who has hit 138 balls in total, is “still the real thing”.

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The final summer will soon begin for Rintaro Sasaki, 18, a monster slugger from Hanamaki-Higashi High School (Iwate).

Two years ago, he entered the school where his father, Hiroshi, is the coach. As of this writing, he has hit 138 home runs. That number far surpasses Kotaro Kiyomiya’s (Hokkaido Nippon Ham) high school home run record of 111 set when he was a student at Waseda Jitsugyo.

Rintaro Sasaki at bat

However, Sasaki knows better than anyone that his record does not guarantee future success, or even world-class success like that of high school senior Shohei Ohtani of the Angels. Therefore, whenever he is approached by the media, Sasaki always responds, “I don’t hit as many homers as I used to.

I am not obsessed with the number of home runs I hit. I appreciate the attention, but my priority is to help the team win. I only think about fulfilling my role.

Still, it is obvious that his oversized home runs are his greatest appeal and selling point to the pros. The highlight was the Aichi Prefecture Invitational Tournament in June, where he hit a total of four home runs, including three off the plate on the first day.

In the first game against Toho on the first day, he arched a slightly sweet straight ball toward the right field, and in the next at-bat, he scooped up a low outside curve with his right hand to create a larger arc.

Then, in the second game against Aikodai Meiden, Sasaki took a 120-kilometer fastball on the outside corner and sent it flying into left field, the opposite direction for the left-handed hitter. The next day, against Shigakukan, he also hit a left-handed pitcher with a straight ball to the right side of the back screen.

As if to demonstrate his power and skill to the scouts and fans gathered in Aichi, he hit four homers of varying quality. Even if we ignore the fact that he can only play first base, that his handling is not very good, and that his feet are not very fast, he is still a monster when he catches a loose ball and makes it go a distance that is beyond the standard.

I think my batting is one of my weapons, and I practice with confidence. If I take my best swing without being influenced by my condition, the pitches will scatter on their own. I want to stick to my role.”

If there is a “hole” in Sasaki’s game, it is a straight ball high on the inside corner. Just as he had trouble with a straight ball thrown by Yoneda Tensyu, a good pitcher from Wakayama City, in last spring’s National Championships, he is not comfortable with a straight ball that hits the chest of a top-class pitcher with a weight over 140 km/h. He has a tremendous swing speed.

Incredible swing speed.

Shigehiro Koshiishi, the coach of North Asia University Meizo (Akita), which defeated Hanamaki-Higashi in the Tohoku Tournament in early June, had this to say.

He said, “For Sasaki, I made sure that our pitchers would collect balls over 135 kilograms in the chest. If the ball is below 135 km/h, the pitcher will fold his arms and rotate his body, and if the ball is on the outside corner, the pitcher will stretch his arms to the opposite direction.

For Sasaki, his high school baseball career was also a two-and-a-half-year battle with injuries: after playing in the Koshien Tournament in the summer of his freshman year, he suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome and had surgery on both shoulders in the winter. Last summer, he broke his left index finger and underwent surgery, and this spring he hurt the heel of his left foot.

Even so, Sasaki continued to bat. In March of this year, I closely followed Hanamaki-Higashi on their trip to Tokyo, which also served as a school excursion.

Perhaps due to the injury, Sasaki continued to play as DH. Although they had only one game against a strong team, Kyoto International, he entered the mass-production system on this trip, and when he hit his 111th home run, tying Kiyomiya, I said to him, “Congratulations. Sasaki laughed and said, “Not at all.

I’m not at all happy for you. I’m still …….”

It was as if to say, “This is nothing compared to what I can do.

All ball players at Hanamaki-Higashi fill out a goal achievement sheet (mandala chart) consisting of 81 squares. In the center square, they write their dreams as their goals, and then fill in the 80 elements necessary to realize them. Shohei Ohtani (now with the Angels), a senior, wrote in his high school years, “To be drafted first by eight teams. In other words, he envisioned himself on the professional stage from the time he entered high school.

Sasaki, on the other hand, has not stated his “career path” after high school. If that is the case, what is Sasaki’s dream, which he wrote in the center of his goal achievement sheet?

His voice echoed around the stadium, inspiring his teammates.

I only write about the team. (What about you, Dora 1, like Otani?) “I don’t write about the team. I don’t write anything (laughs). (Laughs.) I only think about the team winning. I want to rethink my life beyond that after my high school baseball career is over.

For his father, coach Hiroshi Sasaki, this will be the last summer he will play with his son. He must have especially strong feelings toward the Koshien.

Not only Rintaro, but all of them I have known since they were small children. Last summer, I saw my seniors cry. First of all, we have to win Iwate. (As for Rintaro), he has been in a very bad and good mood up to now. I feel that the range is decreasing. The key for the team will be the hitters who bat after Rintaro, and I think we have to fight with the assumption that there will be times when Rintaro will be declared out of respect (for Rintaro),” said Sasaki.

The summer will begin with the true value of the monster slugger who hit an unprecedented number of home runs.

(The summer will begin with a test of the true value of this monster slugger, who has hit home runs at a rate never before seen in Japan.)

Sasaki showing his captaincy
Raising team morale from the first
He showed room for a smile.
Sasaki is also expected to play an active role at Koshien
Sasaki in an exclusive interview with this magazine
Watching the pitcher closely
  • Interview and text by Yuji Yanagawa Photographs Takaki Matsuhashi

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