In this article, we will look back at the sweat and tears of the baseball club days. This is a serial project that looks back on the sweaty and tearful days of youth when celebrities ran around the field. More than 100 members joined the team in 16 years.
From more than 100 members to 16
When I first entered high school in April, more than 100 first-year students joined the club. In April, when I entered high school, more than 100 first-year students joined the club, but that number was reduced to half in three days and one-third in a week. In the summer of my junior year, there were only 16 of my classmates who stayed in the baseball team until the end.
That’s how hard the practice was. Every day, I would cry out in my heart, “Why do I have to go through so much pain? Then, why did I stay until the end? I’m sure the obvious reason is that I genuinely loved baseball, but looking back now, I’m not so sure that was the case. To be honest, the 16 of us who stayed until the end were all idiots (laughs). “I genuinely liked my friends. This was probably the most important reason.
I can say that all my experiences in high school baseball at the private Qiongoura High School baseball team in Nagasaki Prefecture are memories of my friends.
Before entering high school, I played first base and was the third pitcher at Nagasaki Municipal Ebira Junior High School. At the time, it was a strong baseball club and the number one school in the prefecture. When I saw the ace, I thought.
When I saw the ace, I thought, “This is the kind of guy who will go to the pros. I’ll just have fun with it.
I just wanted to have fun. Most of my classmates from the baseball team went on to Nagasaki Nishi High School. There was also a guy who entered Kaisei (Nagasaki) but ended up dropping out and re-entering Nishi High School. Later, I was told, “You didn’t come to Nishiko, that’s why you couldn’t go to Koshien. When I was in my third year of high school, I played a practice game against them, and I easily closed out the game against Nishi High School.
My first choice was Nagasaki Commercial. Nagasaki Shogyo was the first high school in 69 years to win the Koshien Championship this summer. My motivation was that there were a lot of girls there (laughs). (laughs) But I didn’t study hard at all, so I didn’t get in. After failing and failing the examinations, I got in at Qiongoura.
By the way, I’m still proud of the fact that I didn’t do any homework in the “6-3-3” system in elementary, junior high, and high school (laughs). (laughs) In those days, the elementary school handed out a homework booklet called “Summer Vacation Friends,” but I never got around to it. I really don’t know how I was able to play baseball at Qiongpo.
At that time, Qiongpu had three departments: general, commerce, and mechanics. I was in the regular course. It was a coeducational school, but the girls tended to be in the commerce department, so there was no interaction between boys and girls in high school. What awaited me was the “hell” of baseball club life.
The prefab shook!
I didn’t have a recommendation for baseball, so I took the entrance exam and joined the baseball team. Immediately after I joined the team, we started practicing to reduce the number of first-year students to over 100. It was a basic physical training where we had to run all the time. It was really tough.
The baseball field of Qiongpu High School is located on a mountain 4.5 km away from the school. I hated having to run to and from the field every day. After class, we would change in the club room. After loading our belongings into the coach’s microbus, we started running. The ground was on top of a mountain, so the climb up the hill was just too hard.
“I don’t want to do this anymore! I’m quitting!
I can’t tell you how many times in my freshman year I thought to myself, “I’m going to turn around and go back down.
My classmates and I talked about quitting over and over again. But when we managed to get to the field and were ready to go home after practice, we would bite into a loaf of bread we had bought at a store near the school and talk about this and that. This was the only time I could look forward to.
There was one time when I couldn’t take it anymore and seriously wanted to quit. There were two other friends who decided to quit, and the three of us went to the director to tell him. But who’s going to say it first?
Summoning all my courage, I took the lead.
I was furious, fierce, and messed up. I was told later that the battered prefab where I went to talk to the director was shaking sideways (laughs). (laughs) Seeing this, the other two said, “I won’t stop” and escaped with their lives.
The coach was terrified.
At that time, in Nagasaki Prefecture, the semi-finals and finals of the rookie tournament were broadcast on local TV. When Qiongoura won and the game was televised, they caught me on the bench being yelled at, and the camera instantly panned out (laughs). (laughs) I guess they reflexively decided that they had shown something they shouldn’t have. That’s how scary it was.
However, in those days, it was normal for people to get angry. Even if they did, their parents would say, “It’s your fault for being angry,” and they would get even angrier. Even if we did, our parents would get even angrier, saying, “It’s your fault for being angry.
(laughs) The coach had just been promoted from coach the year we entered the school, and he was in his late 20s. He was in his late twenties, so I only remember him getting angry. Ball cases flew at us, braziers flew at us, and there was even a time when I got so angry that I broke a knocking bat. …… In addition, the baseball team’s field is far away from the school building. No one but the baseball team would come near it. It was a complete extraterritoriality.
The seniors were terrifying. However, when I was a freshman, I witnessed a third-year student who had gotten into a fight at school being made to sit on the ground by the coach and getting really angry. The usually fearsome third-year senior was being pushed to the limit. There’s no way I’m going to rebel against a coach like that. We used to call him “Punch” behind his back because he would clench his fists in anger.
The “Shimoyanagi Mound,” built when we couldn’t play baseball
Practice under “Punch” was extremely intense.
Practice in the summer. In those days, you couldn’t drink water. As underclassmen, we were forced to shout anyway. Then some of us would fall down with a bang while yelling.
“Bring me water! Bring salt!”
There was no such thing as “heat stroke,” and water and salt would not be enough to help them recover. There was no phone at the ground on the mountain. The club members dashed to the nearest house and called for an ambulance.
“Excuse me, please call an ambulance!
many times. There were probably four ambulances a day at most. One of the worst was when one of my classmates had a seizure and collapsed, biting his tongue. I was running in the outfield at the time, but I saw a senior open his mouth and stick his finger in. I felt that my life was in danger.
But maybe I was the one whose life was in danger the most.
I was playing first base as a freshman. But when we had to play a game against a high school with a left-handed pitcher, I was assigned to bat against the upperclassmen. I guess you could say that this is when I really started my pitching career.
At the end of the summer of my freshman year, I developed an internal disease.
It was right in the middle of my growth period, when I was growing 10cm taller per year. I guess the inside of my body could not keep up with the rapid growth of the outside of my body. As I was being made to run to the field as usual, a teacher from another club activity passed by and said
“What are you slacking off for?
What are you slacking off for? But as soon as he saw my face.
“Don’t run anymore!”
But as soon as he saw my face, he stopped me. He looked so pale. I hurried to the hospital to check up on him and was told that he was bleeding from his stomach. A blood test showed that his blood level was only one-third of the normal level. If we had left him alone a little longer, he might have really died. Of course, the diagnosis was immediate hospitalization, but I was given only medicine and had to go to the club activities while recovering at home. That’s a strange story, isn’t it?
I rode the bus to the field, and all I did was maintain the field, weed, and throw out balls. This backstage life continued for about six months. It was around this time that I tried to quit.
I managed to stop myself from doing so, and built various things during the time when I could not play baseball. Under the roof of the indoor practice field, I took concrete and built a runway where the rain would not fall. I also built a new mound. I heard that it is now called “Shimoyanagi Mound.
I still remember the words of a gastroenterologist at a hospital in Saga Prefecture who took me there on the advice of my coach. He gave me about 200 injections all over my body, and he said
“He’s going to be a great player.
I later learned that the doctor had written in his report, “He will be a great player. I was a freshman in high school at the time, not a national player, nobody knew me, and I was neither a chopstick nor a stick. Even I didn’t think that I would later become a professional baseball player and the oldest pitcher to win the most games. I don’t know what he saw in me that made him foresee my future, but I’m sure he was thinking about me even after I graduated from high school.
(Continued in Part 2)
Interview and text by： Ryo Ito