Akira Neo of Chunichi: “I just want to win in the pros, that’s all I care about right now. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Akira Neo of Chunichi: “I just want to win in the pros, that’s all I care about right now.

A "prodigy" loved by the Koshien baseball team faces a trying time at Osaka Toin High School, where he was a "pitcher on the mound" for two consecutive years

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Born in Hida City, Gifu Prefecture. He is 177 cm tall and weighs 84 kg. He has gained a lot of weight since his high school days and looks stocky. I ate a lot. Osaka Toin should also train their diet and get bigger (laughs).

When asked about the “Summer Koshien,” a summer tournament in which the players are competing in the intense heat of summer, the former superstar of high school baseball looked straight at the FRIDAY reporter and recalled, “I don’t remember much about the games we won.

I don’t really remember the games I won. All I remember are the games we lost. ……

Akira Neo (23, Chunichi), who was the pitcher for two consecutive Senbatsu tournaments in 2005 and 2006, led his team to victory at Koshien in the summer of 2006, hitting a home run off of Kosei Yoshida (22, Nippon Ham) of Kinzoku Agriculture in the final. (23, Chunichi). The prodigy, who played outfield, shortstop, and pitcher at Osaka Toin High School, which boasts nine national championships, spoke of his “defeat” in the summer of his sophomore year.

In the third round against Sendai Ikuei. Ren Kakiki (23, Nippon Ham), a classmate of mine, was pitching well, but Takuya Nakagawa (23, Tokyo Gas), our first baseman, made a mistake when he failed to step on base, and we lost the game for good. I kept thinking, “If only I had pitched in relief, if only I had hit more pitches. Even so, the retiring third-year seniors were resolute and told me, ‘You should win the championship next year. The day after the defeat, Nakagawa was named captain, and we all renewed our determination to make up for our disappointment.

The following spring, the team fulfilled its promise by beating Chiben Wakayama in the finals of the Sembatsu tournament, but in the summer they suffered from the “pitfalls” of regional tournaments.

In the semifinals against Rushousha, we were down by one point with two outs in the ninth inning. We managed to turn things around, but to be honest, it was tougher than Koshien (laughs).

(Laughs)” After overcoming the hardships, the team went on to win the summer Koshien Tournament, as mentioned above. The game in which he felt the greatest confidence was the quarterfinal against Urawa Gakuin.

We were able to defeat Yutaro Watanabe (22, Seibu), who was said to be the number one pitcher of his generation, and that gave us a lot of confidence. That game convinced me that we could be stronger. After that battle, when we gathered on the mound at the moment of victory, it was a really great feeling.

Five years have passed since that summer, and the prodigy is still struggling on the farm. Neo, who shined brightly at Koshien, was drafted first overall by Chunichi in 1919, but has been unable to establish himself in the first team as his position has changed rapidly, first as a shortstop, then in the outfield, then as a shortstop, and again as a pitcher from this year. Some fans have said, “I feel sorry for him.

No, I really don’t mind! It’s not like baseball is turning into soccer (laughs). I always liked to pitch, so even when I was a fielder, I would sneak into the bullpen for fun. Then I was approached by manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami (53) and decided to focus solely on pitching.

He has pitched in 25 games as a relief pitcher since the middle of last season with a 3.41 earned-run average, and has continued to do well on the farm this season, but he is not satisfied with his performance.

I hadn’t learned how to distribute pitches or how to think about pitches–what you might call pitching technique. I wondered what the difference was between me and the other pitchers in the first team, such as Yuya Yanagi (29), Hideaki Wakui (37), and Hiroto (Takahashi, 21). I am watching videos and studying them. First of all, I want to win my first professional game.

After talking about his life in professional baseball, which has been a trial and error process, Nebo left a mischievous message for the high school baseball players who will be competing at the sacred ground.

The crowd is crazy, and it’s so hot. Please drink plenty of water and do your best to avoid heat stroke! It’s really hot in Koshien anyway (laughs).

In high school, Nebo overcame adversity many times to win the crown. He is sure to use his five years of hardship as a pro as fertilizer.

In the three Koshien tournaments in which he participated, he allowed only nine runs in 42 innings pitched. He was a dynamic pitcher and hitter, batting .371 with 20 runs batted in.
Akira Neo, Chunichi Dragons: “I just want to win in the pros, that’s all I want right now.
Akira Neo, Chunichi Dragons: “I want to win in the pros, that’s all I want right now.
Akira Neo, Chunichi Dragons: “I want to win in the pros, that’s all I want right now” Special Interview

From the September 1, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Shinji Hamasaki

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