Exclusive Interview with Sho Nakata of Chunichi Dragons: Farewell, Glorious Giants! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Exclusive Interview with Sho Nakata of Chunichi Dragons: Farewell, Glorious Giants!

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I mean, who has blonde hair and short hair like me?” He laughs mischievously. How will the Dragons’ batting lineup change with the magic drug that is Sho Nakata?

He clenched his right fist tightly.

This is a pose for martial artists, isn’t it? (laugh).

(Laughs.)” Saying this, Sho Nakata (34) responded honestly to the request of the FRIDAY photographer.

Nakata will be a member of the Chunichi Dragons starting this season. When FRIDAY heard that he was going to make a fresh start deep in Oita Prefecture, we immediately flew there to interview him. Nakata accepted the interview without hesitation.

What FRIDAY wanted to know was exactly about this “straightforwardness. Why did the cannonballer, who hit .269 with 24 hits the previous year, accept to be a substitute? He had two years left on his contract with a salary of 300 million yen, so why did he give it up without even a grunt of protest?

The cannonballer, who has hit over 300 home runs in his professional career, began to talk quietly.

I started thinking about leaving the Giants after the season ended. I wasn’t dissatisfied with the team or anything, I just genuinely thought, ‘I want to play in the games. Then I heard on LINE News or something that new manager Shinnosuke Abe (44) had said that first base would be fixed with Kazuma Okamoto (27), and I thought, ‘Well, then I have no choice. I thought, ‘Then I have no choice but to make some kind of decision.

The biggest obstacle was his family.

He has four children, the oldest of whom is still in elementary school. They were hesitant about changing their living environment.

I think my eldest daughter was wondering what we were going to do,” he said. She might have to change schools. Even so, my wife and children said, ‘We’ll follow you wherever you go. That was a big thing for me.”

He transferred from Nippon Ham in the middle of the ’21 season and left the Giants after three seasons. How did the glorious Giants appear in Nakata’s eyes?

I don’t have any good memories (laughs). I think it was when Shigeo Nagashima (87, manager emeritus for life) gave me hitting lessons. He told me, with gestures, to hold the bat out like this and to hold it short. He had an aura about him. I was also surprised that he was bigger than I expected. It’s because I was a member of the Giants. …… No, even if you were a member of the Giants, it was a very rare experience.”

The memories of the hard times came out in spurts. The second half of last season was much harder,” Nakata said with a wry smile.

It is difficult to bat in place of a pitcher. You have to have the courage to go for the first pitch and miss it. There are cases where you have to be on the lookout for changeable pitches. I have to keep the data in mind, watch the opposing pitcher’s film, and after the fifth inning, I go behind the bench and play …… because I think of the substitute hitting as a different sport. Every day, while watching the game from the bench, I thought, ‘I wish I could go into the game from the top of my head.’ …… The day before the game, the starting lineup is announced, but there is no explanation or follow-up about starting on the bench. Not because of me, but because the Giants don’t do that. However, Daisuke Motoki (52, strategy and infield defense coach) and Yoshiyuki Kamei (41, hitting coach) worked together with me. Mr. Motoki, in particular, would say to me, “You’re not playing today, are you? and he turned it into a laugh. He turned it into a laugh, saying, “On the contrary, why? He said, “I don’t know! He said, ‘I don’t know!

A Direct Call from Manager Tatsunami

On November 15 of last year, when Nakata exercised his option to terminate his multi-year contract with the Giants, he received offers from several teams in the Central and Pacific League.

But Nakata’s hara was quickly decided.

He said, “My agent was negotiating with them, so I don’t know the exact number, but it looks like three or four teams made offers. But the only team that made a straight offer was Chunichi. Some teams would say, ‘Just tell us first whether you are interested in coming or not,’ but Chunichi manager Kazuyoshi Tachinami (54) called me directly and said, ‘I want to work with you. I want to work with you, and I need your help, so please lend it to me. That really touched my heart.

Tatsunami has made it clear that he will start in the cleanup lineup.

I want to talk with the youngsters about various things and help them develop their skills. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from those conversations. But still–we have to play in a big stadium again (laughs). (Laughs.) At our home stadium, the Bantelin Dome, you can’t hit a home run with a bad hit. You have to be conscious of catching it firmly, or it won’t go into the stands. Well, the same thing happened at Sapporo Dome, my home base when I was with Nippon Ham.

It is still fresh in our minds that the rice cooker was removed from the stadium by order of manager Tatsunami in the middle of last season, which caused a big commotion called the “rice riot in Reiwa. Nakata intends to change such a negative atmosphere.

I heard about the rice riot,” he said. I heard that they don’t allow us to eat rice at all, but I heard that …… actually prepares it well. (Laughs.) You have to be careful with rumors like this because they tend to get bigger and bigger. I don’t know if the youngsters are afraid of Director Tatsunami, but I have known him for 10 years since he was a hitting coach for the Samurai Japan team. I hope I can tell him how great he is. Anyway, I want to win with Chunichi. I want to win a championship and become the best in Japan.

Nakata described this season as the “last spurt” of his baseball career. There is no doubt that the spurt by the baseball-hungry cannonballer will completely change Chunichi.

Last season, when he was mainly a substitute hitter, he played mostly against left-handed relievers. I am looking forward to facing the Giants’ ace Shoyuki Togo (23).
He and Tatsunami are good friends, dining together and discussing hitting. Nakata decided to join the Dragons after receiving a direct telephone call from manager Tatsunami.
Sho Nakata and his personal trainer, Masayoshi Hideshima (left), worked on strengthening his inner muscles to make his body more resistant to injury!
Sho Nakata’s candid talk “Farewell, glorious Giants!
Sho Nakata’s candid talk “Farewell, glorious Giants!

From the February 16, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Ryoji Shigemasa (1st and 4th photos)

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