“Baseball players eat patience!
During the three years I spent on the baseball team of Qiongpu High School, I was constantly berated. I hated the summer vacation, when the severity of the season increased even more. Every year I thought, “Don’t let summer come.
This is the only thing I learned in high school.
The coach would ask us at meetings, “What does a baseball player eat?
“Do you know what baseball players eat?”
One of our guys says.
“One of us replied, “Meat!
One of us answered, “Meat! (laughs) “…… meat?” So another fellow replied, “Vegetables!
Another fellow replied, “Vegetables! “…… vegetables?” And then the manager said.
“Baseball players eat patience!”
I said. Even though he said that, we didn’t know anything about it.
“What are you talking about, Punch? You can’t eat patience and get bloated!”
The coach always said, “Beat yourself. In other words, he told me to be patient with myself when I was about to lose and to get over it. That’s all he ever said to me.
In fact, after I retired from the baseball team and graduated from high school, all I had to do was to endure what awaited me when I went out into the world. It was then that I finally understood, “Oh, so this is what it means to beat yourself. That’s why when I was asked what my motto was, I would write “Self-conquering spirit.
Even after I joined the professional ranks, even when I wanted to slack off or when others were taking time off, I would persevere and make as many dashes and pitches as I could, and that’s how I distinguished myself from others.
Somewhere along the line, he came to the conclusion that the time to retire was when he got sick of practicing and getting breathless. “The last thing you want is to think, “I don’t have to do this much. It’s the end of the world when your energy fades before your physical strength. I made up my mind and continued to be a professional baseball player, but there was a lot of patience I learned in high school.
To cut a long story short, the year after I was released from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2012 at the age of 44, I went to the United States to try out for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I said, “I’m going to find a place to die.
There’s a reason for this. Children often ask me, “How can I become a professional baseball player? “Instead of looking for reasons to quit.
“Instead of looking for reasons to quit, look for reasons to continue.
Instead of looking for reasons to quit, look for reasons to continue. As such, I could not immediately quit baseball just because I was released from Rakuten. In order to find a reason to continue, I needed to go to America to put my words to rest.
The TV station was closely following my tryout in Los Angeles, and when I saw the video of myself pitching, I was surprised to see that my back was bent. No matter how you look at it, it’s painful. After I failed the tryout, I was sitting in a restaurant with my manager, watching the sunset over Venice Beach.
came out of my mouth. This is where I put an end to my baseball career. The moment I got back to Narita Airport, the tension in my body must have snapped, and I lost my back, then my shoulders. I was in no condition to throw the ball anymore. After that, I couldn’t lift my arm for about six months.
During the tryouts, I really threw the ball only with my mind. That’s why I understand. Human feelings have tremendous power. I’m sure the coach wanted to teach me this.
Although the coach was scared of us, none of us in our generation were able to decide whether to go on to higher education or find a job. When I had dropped out of Yawata University (now Kyushu International University) and was thinking about finding a job, the manager was the one who talked me into joining Nippon Steel Kimitsu, a baseball club for working people. At that time, I was called by the manager and rode in on my motorcycle, but he got angry again (laughs).
When my friends from those days get together, we instantly become high school students again.
After returning to Japan from the U.S., when I returned to my hometown in Nagasaki, my friends from the baseball team of Qiongoura High School organized a retirement game for me.
A team of my classmates and a team of juniors played against each other. The truth is that my shoulder was hurting and I was in no condition to throw. But everyone went out of their way to schedule time off work for this game. The manager, Punch, also came to the game and raised me up at the end. After the game, everyone ate dinner together and thanked me. That made me happy.
By the way, something similar happened to me on my high school graduation day.
I was going to Yawata University, so I had to go to Fukuoka on the day of the graduation ceremony.
There is often a sweet and sour scene at graduation ceremonies where a girl asks for the second button, but my school uniform had all the buttons neatly aligned. While I was at Nagasaki station, disappointed, a classmate of mine from the baseball team came to the platform and threw me a ball with a note on it.
As I got on the Kamome express train and read the ball, I started to feel like I wanted to go home ……. I was so lonely that I thought about getting off the train at Isahaya station and going back.
My classmates and I have what is called a “rotten relationship.
I still get along with my high school friends the best. When I was a teenager, a man in his fifties looked like an old man, but as we get older, we instantly become high school friends again when we get together. We’re still talking about the same stupid things we did back then.
And even at this age, my seniors are still as scary as ever. The guy who used to scare me the most is now an old man at an eel restaurant. I went to eat there once, and when I tried to pay the bill, he said, “You don’t have to pay. “I said, “No, no, I’ll pay.
“He glared at me.
He stared at me. I straightened up and said, “Yes! Thank you for the food! I had to straighten my back and bow my head (laughs).
(laughs) When I was on location for a local TV program in Nagasaki Prefecture, I happened to meet a senior who was about five years older than me. He was walking towards me from the other side and it was obvious who he was. I greeted him by standing upright on the way and said, “Good work! I greeted him.
“Hey, what’s up? Good luck!
The staff of the station looked at me with awe. The staff at the station were aghast (laughs).
High school friends are a lifelong asset
My mother told me to be a doctor, but I said, “No, I’m going to be a ‘Star of the Giants’! But I said, “No, I’m going to be a ‘Star of the Giants’! In my elementary school graduation book, I wrote “professional baseball player” in the column for my future dream.
His baseball career began when he started playing softball in the third grade. My older brother, who was three years older than me, took me to play softball, but I played more games than him, and he was an alternate. Maybe that’s how I developed my baseless confidence.
Anyway, I was able to play professional baseball because of softball. That’s why I launched the “Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi Dream Cup Nagasaki Youth Softball Championship” in 2007.
Last year, the tournament was cancelled for the first time due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection, but we have held the tournament every year, expanding its scale every year. The event now attracts about 60 teams and about 3,000 people, including the players themselves. The venue is also lined with stalls. Teams from remote islands such as Iki and Tsushima come to participate in the tournament by boat, and since it is positioned as the last tournament for 6th graders, the players are highly motivated. This is the last tournament for 6th graders, so the players are highly motivated.
Helping me with this event are my friends from Qiongpu High School. On the day before the event, junior surveyors help me draw the line. The day before the event, a junior surveyor draws a line for us, and everyone else brings their skills acquired in their working lives to help us. After the event, we all go out for yakiniku and talk about stupid things. This is something I look forward to every year.
There is a group line of my classmates, and I always try to contact them when I go to Nagasaki. We are all in our fifties now, and some of us have started our own businesses and are now presidents, while others are in middle management positions. Some of them already have grandchildren. They are my memories and assets of the Qiongpu High School baseball team.
In high school and in college. In high school and college, the people with whom I shared my hardships during the most sensitive period of my life will be with me for the rest of my life. For example, you may not only talk about baseball because you were on the baseball team, but you may also discuss your love life, employment, and work problems. They become a very important person to whom you can honestly confide your deepest thoughts about the milestones in your life.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have someone who is truly sympathetic to me. I don’t know how the current students are living their lives in the present moment. However, as a person in my 50s who is still keenly aware of the importance of friends, I would like to say that the time and friends you spend in your irreplaceable high school years should be cherished above all else.
Interview and text by： Ryo Ito