Shigeya Hosokawa (24)
He became the main gun of Chunichi after learning “how to use his power to his advantage.
After the 2010 draft, 126 young warriors knocked on the door of various teams, while 129 were given notices of withdrawal from the war. Many players who showed great promise for the future with their teams, but failed to develop their potential, retired while languishing in the farm system. However, there are some players who have “blossomed in a new place” after seizing the opportunity to play for a team that traded them, left them out of the lineup, or drafted them in the current draft. Seiya Hosokawa (24), who plays a key role in the middle lineup for Chunichi, is a representative example of such a player.
Hosokawa joined DeNA in 2005 as the fifth overall pick in the draft, but over the six years until last year, he had not lived up to the expectations of the leadership, hitting just six home runs and batting .201. Tomoya Tsuboi, who was the hitting coach of the first team at the time, said, “From his rookie year, Hosoya was a very good hitter.
Tomoya Tsuboi, who was the first-team hitting coach at the time, said, “From his rookie year, Hosokawa’s ‘ability to hit it far away’ was remarkable. However, he was unable to deal with in-course fastballs, and he also swung his bat at out-course breaking pitches. Even when he was given a chance to pitch as a substitute, he would come home with a three-pitch strikeout. He was a difficult player to use as a starter.”
However, after moving to Chunichi in last year’s offseason draft, he has hit .319 with 10 home runs (as of June 27, 2012. In May, he was named MVP of the month, and in the middle of the first half of the season, he surpassed his six-year total of home runs, runs batted in, and hits. What is the reason for his “blossoming”?
He said, “Originally, the amount of weight training and swing practice was one of the best on the team. DeNA was a tough environment with Keita Sano (28), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (31), and Tyler Austin (31) in the outfield. He was probably trying to catch up with them. This season, however, Hosokawa is swinging with great ease. I think the change of team has changed his state of mind, and he has learned how to relax and how to put in more energy.
The other day, I sent him a text message saying, “You got a chance,” and he replied, “I will practice a lot from now on! He replied, “I will practice a lot from now on! No wonder he has made great strides this season, since his strength has disappeared and the amount of practice he does has increased.
While the team sits in fifth place in the league, a new main gun is giving hope to Chunichi fans.
Kotaro Otake (28)
Cut ball for 2 balls is effective!
If Hosokawa blossomed as a hitter, Hanshin’s Kotaro Otake, 28, is a pitcher. He was drafted by Softbank in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, and in his first year he posted a 1.87 earned-run average in the Western League, but in the Pacific League, where 150 km/h straight balls are the norm, the 145 km/h Otake often got hit by pitches and was unable to protect his rotation spot. ‘ Yoshio Mizukami, who coached at Softbank in 2006, looks back on those days.
‘He pitched well a few times in his first year, and was a pitcher whose future I was looking forward to. However, his control was not as good as it is now, and his pitches were not outstandingly fast. He was a pitcher who didn’t stand out much. I also felt that he didn’t have a lot of energy on the mound, and I thought, “If this is his first year, he should be more excited about pitching, but what’s the point of being boring? SoftBank has a lot of players, so if he was hit even a little too hard, he would be sent to the second team or even the third team. I think he felt that kind of pressure on the mound.
However, Otake’s pitching improved dramatically after he was drafted by the Hanshin League. He currently ranks third in the league with six wins and a 1.13 earned-run average, despite pitching fewer than the required number of innings.
In the Central League, pitchers who are more skillful and use their control to win tend to be more successful than pitchers in the Pacific League, where fastballers such as Akira Sasaki (21) and Kaima Taira (23) are more common. There is no doubt that the move to the Central League’s Hanshin League was a great opportunity for Otake, who is a “slow pitcher,”” said a sports newspaper reporter in charge of baseball.
Another factor in his rapid progress is his technical development.
His changeable pitch accuracy has improved dramatically. At the time, I thought, ‘If I had just a few more sharp breaking pitches, I could win the game,’ but now I am able to throw a cut ball that penetrates right-handed hitters’ knees by two balls and a slider with a wider curve than that to the corners. That is why his change-up and high-quality straight ball, which have always been his weapons, come into play. He has mastered the pitching technique of Nobuyuki Hoshino (57), who also pitched for Hanshin.
The presence of manager Akifu Okada (65), who is leading the Hanshin team for the first time in 15 years since 2008, also seems to have something to do with it. ……
Okada is probably working his Okada magic on Otake, a junior at Waseda University, because he adores him. Okada uses the media to tell players he has high expectations for them, saying things like, ‘I’ll use you for a while, so take it easy and pitch,’ or he talks directly to the player himself. It is no wonder that Ohtake, who had been languishing in a Softbank team full of good pitchers, was inspired by Okada.
Takeshi Wada (42), who volunteered to be his apprentice during his off-season training in 2010, praised Otake, saying, “He is still growing. The day is near when he will win the Sawamura Award, which his mentor was unable to win.
Masayoshi Tanaka (28)
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Shinjo’s advice led him to become a guardian god.
Let’s turn our attention to the Pacific League. Masayoshi Tanaka (28), who was transferred from Nippon Ham to SoftBank as compensation for Kensuke Kondo (29), has been shining as a “suppression pitcher. When he was a student at Soka University, he was the reigning ace of the Japanese national team. After competing with five other teams, Tanaka was drafted first overall by SoftBank in 2005, but failed to live up to expectations, pitching only 34 innings in six years and posting a 4.25 earned-run average.
He was unable to pitch as well as he should have at SoftBank, partly due to a shoulder injury. In the midst of all this, I think he must have felt bitter that the world looked at him as ‘the former number one pitcher in college. I told Masayoshi, ‘Don’t push yourself too hard,’ but he is a very serious person, so I think he was forcing himself to pitch while protecting his injury. The current pitching is the ‘true form’ of Masayoshi. ……” (Yasuo Fujii, coach of Softbank in ’17)
The aforementioned Mizukami also praised Tanaka’s potential, saying, “There is no doubt about it.
When he first came to Chikugo (the second team stadium), he threw a straight ball with such a tremendous revolution rate that I couldn’t help but remark to the newspaper reporters, ‘I could drink all night long while watching this guy’s pitches. I had never seen anyone throw a straight line like that except Masaharu Mitsui (68) and Taku Egawa (68), both former members of the Lotte baseball team. It was a pity that he could not get the count with his breaking ball. In the professional world, even if you have a great straight ball, that is not enough to get hit by pitches.
It was manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo (51) who polished the diamond in the rough.
Shinjo advised Tanaka, who had a gloomy look on his face when he pitched, to ‘throw with a smile. When he pitched well, he would always praise him, saying things like, ‘Tanaka, you give me a sense of security when you’re the suppressor. Tanaka was reassured by these words, and began to pitch with a smile and confidence even when he was hit. His mind became more relaxed and his control became more stable. This is probably reflected in his current record of 12 saves and a 2-point batting average. If this were the Giants, led by manager Tatsunori Hara (64), I don’t think such words would be spoken.
The environment that allowed Tanaka to play freely helped him develop into a guardian god.
He was able to play in an environment that allowed him to develop into a guardian god. “In the professional world, it is not common for a player’s skill to suddenly improve by leaps and bounds. When I was at SoftBank, I was not sure how to use him, such as handling a loss or relieving a pitcher, but when I moved to Nichi-Ham, I was given the role of “Osaeru” (suppressor). I believe that Masayoshi felt rewarded for the first time when he started pitching with the expectations of the leaders, even if he got hit a little. Praise him well, make him understand what he needs to do, and try to put it into practice. I think this is the skill of Shinjo, who steered Masayoshi with guidance suited to the current era.
The number one talent of his generation has regained his former brilliance.
Kenta Chatani (25)
Chiba Lotte Marines
A natural character with a “baseball notebook.
There are players who have risen from the ranks of the “out of contention” players. Kenta Chatani, 25, of the Chiba Lotte team, was drafted fourth overall by Softbank in 2004, but in 2006 he was released from the draft and signed with the Lotte team after rejecting an offer to re-sign as a developmental player.
He has been physically strong since he was a rookie, and he is big and flies well when he hits the ball. He was especially good at hitting inside pitches. He was as good as the Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto (34). However, at the time, his body was not well-trained and his movements were too limp. And he was a natural. He reminded me of Yoshio Itoi (41). No matter how much the coach scolded him, he just smiled and said, ‘Hi!
However, Chatani also had a growing sense of crisis.
Originally, he was not very hungry, but he decided to leave Fukuoka, which had good training facilities, and join Lotte. He was so physically strong that I wondered if he was really human, so it was only natural that he would grow up faster if he practiced hard in a tough environment.
He also began to spend more and more time rethinking himself.
Director Yoshii Rito (58) told me to keep a diary so that I could look at myself from a bird’s eye view, and I did just that. He also said, ‘By taking time for reflection, I can find hints for improving my technique at a moment’s notice.
He has plenty of potential. We hope that he will follow Sakamoto as a big shortstop, and excite the baseball world.
Egoshi Taiga (30)
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Persistence in competing even with a broken bone paid off
Egoshi Taiga (30), who was traded from the Hanshin to Nippon Ham, returned the favor to his old team in a strong way in the interchange games. Egoshi, who played in the three-game series against Hanshin in the No. 1 spot in the center lineup, hit a no. 4 solo shot in the first game. In a pinch situation, Egoshi showed his strong shoulder to get the runner in scoring position, and he was very active offensively and defensively.
He had always had outstanding physical ability since his Hanshin days, but his low batting average meant that he was only used as a defensive replacement or as a substitute. His expression at bat lacked composure, and there were many times when he was caught out by the fast straight pitches of first-round pitchers. However, after moving to Nichi-Ham, the leaders patiently started using him as a starter. To be honest, I don’t see a big change in his technique, but his expression has become more relaxed, and he is doing a good job in key areas,” said Fujii.
If he continues to be used as a starter, he will have more opportunities to play defense and make more good plays.
If he continues to be used as a starter, he will have more opportunities to play defense and make more good plays. Egoshi is working hard to take advantage of this opportunity. At one point, he broke both his right wrist and left rib, but he is so committed to this season that he will play in the game at his own request.
Fans of both Hanshin and Nichi-Ham are waiting for the day when Egoshi will be in full bloom.
Just by changing the environment, players who had been in the doldrums can shine brightly and look different. Such miracles are commonplace in the world of professional baseball.
From the July 14-21, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Kyodo News, Jiji News, Sankei Shimbun