Finished hitting practice with just one pitch during his time with the second team. ……Why Nippon Ham’s Nakamasa Mannami Bucketed to Contend for the Homerun King | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Finished hitting practice with just one pitch during his time with the second team. ……Why Nippon Ham’s Nakamasa Mannami Bucketed to Contend for the Homerun King

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Nakamasa Mannami stares down a home run pitch. Only three years ago, he was below .200 even with the second team, but he has blossomed into a brilliant player.

The battle for the Pacific League homerun crown has been a crowded affair. Eito Asamura of Rakuten (32), who won the home run crown in 2008, is tied with Lotte Polanco (32) and outfielder Nakamasa Mannami of Nippon Ham (23) with 25.

Mannami, who was drafted fourth overall out of Yokohama High School in 2006 and is now in his fifth year as a professional, started the season with the first team for the first time and even played the No. 4 position at one point. However, after the game against Rakuten on August 23, Mannami was unable to produce an arch for nearly a month.

It was not until September 16 against SoftBank at Escondido Field that he was ready to go on the attack again. After hitting No. 22, Mannami’s voice was raised on the podium.

I’ve been very conscious of the home run title, but I haven’t been able to move the last one or two. This is a good challenge for me.

Mannami has been used by the first team since Tsuyoshi Shinjo took over as manager in the 2010 season, and he has been used at No. 1 since September 3 to assist Mannami in winning the home run title again this season. The arrangements made by manager Shinjo and the coaching staff have encouraged the 23-year-old’s growth. However, Mannami, who had a batting average of only .196 in 2008, only three years earlier, has been able to develop to this level thanks to the efforts of someone else. Former farm hitting coach Kenji Yano (now a scout) recalls, “The reason Mannami has come this far is because of his effort.

The reason Mannami has come this far is because of his efforts. The first time I saw Mannami was at the joint training camp for rookies in January 2007. My first impression was that he was a tremendous athlete: 192 cm in length with long arms and legs, but he was also very soft. He still lacked spring and speed, but I felt that he would be an exciting athlete to train with.

Later, Yano studied abroad with the Texas Rangers, with whom Nippon Ham has a business partnership, to train as a coach. It was not until the 2009 training camp, when Yano became the hitting coach of the second team, that he began coaching Mannami directly. The previous year, Mannami had failed to make the first team and had batted .196 with eight home runs and 31 runs batted in in 58 games for the second team.

In the process of learning the characteristics of the players he was to coach, Yano knew Mannami’s strengths and weaknesses.

He said, “He is so eager to practice that he will hit for two to three hours individually even after the entire practice session is over. However, Mannami himself did not know what kind of swing he used to hit the ball, which is why he could not achieve a good batting average. If he had not truly grasped the sense of how to transmit power to the ball well, his swing would change from day to day. He was an avid practitioner, and if he continued to practice in that state, there was a risk that he would end up going in the wrong direction.

Therefore, he wanted to know what kind of swing would make the ball fly in a way that would make people sit up and take notice. In order for him to grasp the feeling of impact by himself, I taught him how to use his body, starting from the way he walks.

Yano took the same stance not only with Mannami but also with all of the players he coached. He asked them where and how they used their bodies in each practice session. Why was that practice necessary? Instead of forcing them to do a certain number of exercises, Manno would sometimes show them how to do them while explaining the reasoning behind them, leaving the decision of how much to do to the players’ own initiative. In order to have the players grasp the feeling of transmitting power to the ball, he also introduced tennis, badminton, table tennis, and soccer ball lifting as if for fun.

Mannami when he was trying to get back on the farm, and Mr. Yano (left), who was coaching him as a farm hitting coach.

In sports where the ball is hit with a tool, “hand first” is considered ideal when swinging. When swinging, the wrist comes forward before the tool, and the wrist returns after impact when the ball is hit. However, in the case of baseball, when the desire to catch the ball with the center of the bat becomes strong, many players place the point in front of the ball and catch the ball with their wrists halfway back. Therefore, right-handed hitters often end up with a shaky third strike if the ball goes off-center, and Mannami was no exception.

When Yano began coaching Mannami in earnest in February 2009 at the Kunigami Training Camp in Okinawa, Mannami was not an exception. Mannami continued to swing with an awareness of attracting the ball, rather than focusing on hitting the ball to the core. In one practice game, Mannami was able to swing that way, but a pitch that landed in the shortstop’s back pocket fell and became a hit. The batter was inclined to tilt his head back and reflect on the hit, but Mr. Yano praised him, saying, “Your swing is fine.

The hitter didn’t want to get jammed, so he wanted to catch the ball on the core,” Yano said. I learned from one of my seniors, who was a top hitter, that in the 500 or so at-bats he takes part in each year, only about five of those pitches are perfectly centered. Moreover, in recent years, the level of pitchers has risen, making it even more difficult to catch pitches on the core. I have been telling the players that it is important how many hits they can get off the core.

Mannami has listened to Yano’s instruction and practiced hard, but batting is not so simple that it can be mastered immediately. But batting is not so simple that it can be mastered right away. Mannami was taking batting practice in Kamagaya when he was ordered to stop after just one pitch. Mr. Yano recalls the incident.

When Mannami got up to bat, he seemed to be searching for a way to hit the ball, wondering if it would hit the bat. That would inevitably lead to a half-hearted use of his body. So the day before the outdoor hitting practice, we had talked about preparing both physically and mentally so that he could swing as hard as he could from the first pitch. Despite this, he was swinging in a probing manner on the first pitch, so I had him stop.

I thought about the position he was in as well as the fact that he was developing bad habits in the way he used his body. When a player who has not established himself in the first team moves up to the first team, he is given the chance to substitute in or run for a batter, which may or may not happen once per game. If he fails to produce results there, he immediately returns to the farm. Whether or not he can swing the bat as hard as he can from the first pitch of batting practice will ultimately lead to whether or not he can remain in the professional ranks. Considering his sensitive nature, though, he now reflects, ‘I didn’t have to go that far.

Although Mr. Yano temporarily shushed him, he did not forget to follow up. Mannami, who was unable to take batting practice, went to the indoor practice field after the end of general practice and continued to swing the bat at the machine by himself. Yano, who watched Mannami practice until the end of the day, talked with Mannami as they picked up a ball together.

I think it’s great that he cut out his lunch hour to practice,” Yano said. But if you continue to search for the first pitch of hitting practice, you will not be able to open up the half-talented player you have. That’s what I wanted to tell you. So let’s try to do what we’re working on right now.”

Mannami’s dynamic swing when he hit a home run

Mannami came up to the Ichigun in April of this season and hit his first professional hit off of Orix’s Fukuya Yamazaki and his first professional home run off of DeNA’s Shota Imanaga in June. He also made the Freshman All-Star team, but bounced back and forth between the first and second teams. He played only 49 games for the Ichigun.

Even if his hitting improved, he would not be able to put up numbers in the pros unless he learned how to play with opponents. To this end, Yano told all the players he coached, including those who had been demoted from the first team to the second team.

He told them, “Be able to read the other player’s feelings and atmosphere.

Can you sense when a senior player wants water? Can you notice if the sandals used in the bathroom are in disarray and rearrange them neatly? He asked them to train their antennae to be sensitive and perceptive enough to notice the smallest of details in their daily lives. For example, if a pitcher with a proven track record takes the mound, but his forehead is sweating more than usual, he can gain a psychological advantage in the batter’s box by thinking, “Maybe he is in a different kind of hurry today.

In the scene of Mannami’s goodbye home run described in the first half of this article, with the score tied 1-1 with one out in the ninth inning, the fleet-footed Ryota Igohata took the opposing guardian god Osuna by surprise and bunted the first pitch safely to load the bases. With the final runner on base, Osuna must have felt a little rushed. Mannami did not miss the slight agitation. He took advantage of the pitcher’s desire to get a strike early and settle down, and swung fully at the first pitch. The bitter memory of being told to “stop” hitting practice after just one pitch when he was still in the second base came to fruition in this situation.

I want to repeat, the reason Mannami was able to compete for the homerun crown was because he struggled to change himself, honestly took in what he was told, and put his efforts into shape. I think it’s also because I’m working under Shinjo, who says to me, ‘You can start from the first pitch.

After hitting the home run, Mannami, who was cheered on by more than 30,000 fans on the grandstand, returned to the bench and carefully put his bat in a plastic bag. Most players disappear to their lockers after the game with two naked bats in one hand, but Mannami cares for his tools of the trade as much as anyone else. It is the daily subtlety that creates boldness at the point of victory. …… Mannami is certainly climbing the stairs to become the “extraordinary player” that Mr. Yano felt when he first met Mannami.

Scout Yano took a picture with Mannami (right) when he visited Tokyo Dome on business.

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