Exclusive Interview with Kosei Yoshida of The Orix Opens Up, Mind Went Blank on Transfer Notification | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Exclusive Interview with Kosei Yoshida of The Orix Opens Up, Mind Went Blank on Transfer Notification

Star of the Koshien Tournament in the summer of '18, but pitched in only 3 games last year.

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He picked up avocado, which he was eating to limit his sugar intake. Height 175 cm, weight 83 kg, small for a professional baseball player.

On the day of Nippon Ham’s barnstorming party in Sapporo last November. Kosei Yoshida, 23, who was told to come early, was called into a private room and told something unexpected by Hiroshi Yoshimura, the team’s general manager. It was an exchange trade for Yuta Kuroki of the Orix. Yoshida recalls.

I was really surprised. I was so surprised that I couldn’t think straight……. I had just completed my contract renewal three days before. At first I didn’t really feel it, but I’m going back to my roots at the new place. I want to start over from scratch and contribute to the Orix’s bid for Japan’s No. 1 position.

Last year was a tough season, with only three appearances in the first team. This off-season, he banned carbohydrates and reduced his body fat percentage by 5% to 13% by eating a diet centered on avocados, eggs, and beef. He has been finishing well, hitting 148 km/h, the fastest ever for this time of the year. Yoshida, who will be participating in his first camp with the Orix, talked about his struggles to date and his enthusiasm for this season.

Yoshida, a junior at Kanashoku Agricultural High School, became a star at the Koshien Stadium in the “Kinnoh Whirlwind” of the summer of ’18. Yoshida had been practicing hard, including running in the snow, and his fastball was growing in power and confidence. At the opening ceremony of the Akita Prefectural Tournament, he was approached by a teammate from his junior high school and replied, “I’m going to be the best pitcher in Japan.

How can you talk to the pitcher who is going to be the best in Japan?

Yoshida recalls his junior high school teammate saying to him, “I’ve had a lot of experience as a pro, and I’m humble.

I have experienced many things in the pros and have become more humble, but back then I was a bit of a yankee,……. I have never been nervous at a game. The more people were there, the more attention I wanted to get. Whoever my opponent was, I was determined to beat him.

I wasn’t thinking straight.”

Although he lost to Toin Osaka in the final of the Koshien tournament, he threw 1,517 pitches from the prefectural tournament. He became a household name and was drafted first overall by NIHAM in 1919. His debut with the National League was on June 12 against Hiroshima. Yoshida allowed one run in five innings, becoming the 19th player in history to win a game in his first appearance. But then…

Yoshida said, “Immediately after that, I got injured. People around me praised me, saying, ‘It’s great that he won so suddenly,’ and, ‘As expected of a star of the Koshien Stadium. I was confident, too. As long as my injury heals, I should be able to play in the first team again. I thought I could get a lot of wins as a starter. But looking back, I was naive in my thinking.

Once his physical condition deteriorated, it was difficult for him to recover. He wanted to get back into the starting lineup as soon as possible, but his impatience made him lose sight of himself.

I was losing sight of myself because I was in such a hurry. I didn’t want to slack off, but I couldn’t put any effort into practice. I didn’t even know what to do. I was never the type to think too much, but I didn’t eat out or go out, and I had no time to spare mentally.

The turning point came during the spring training camp in 2010. It was a warning from former Hanshin baseball player, Kyuji Fujikawa. He advised me not to lower my center of gravity just because I wanted to throw low, but to hit the ball down firmly from above. That year, Yoshida pitched in 51 games, mostly as a reliever, and became a member of the first team for the first time.

He said, “Mr. Fujikawa’s advice helped me regain the feeling that the ball was hitting my fingers. (The number of rotations per minute increased from about 2,200 to 2,400. My broken form was corrected, and I felt I had seen the light of day to make it as a pro.

However, Yoshida’s form declined again. As mentioned earlier, he finished last year with a 9.00 earned-run average in three starts.

It was a conditioning failure. Even though I pitched in more than 50 games the previous year, I did not recover well without taking fatigue into consideration. It was no wonder I was in bad shape.

Reflecting on this, in the off-season, Yoshida received instruction at the Kanoya College of Physical Education in Kagoshima, which he had attended for some time, to retrain his body. He corrected his form based on the theory of “Nuki-jyu,” which is to relax the right foot, which serves as the axis of the body, when stepping into the left foot. He has lost 2.5 kg of fat by following a “ketogenic diet” that restricts carbohydrates.

I have a constitution that makes me gain weight easily. I have no problem gaining weight by gaining muscle strength, but if I gain weight through fat, my body loses its sharpness. Thanks to the carbohydrate restriction and other measures, I am in better shape than ever. I am not particular about my role as a starter or a reliever. I want to make it to the first team all year round and get back to where I was before. I want to be active this year.

It has been six years since the “Kinnoh Whirlwind” that thrilled the fans. Yoshida is trying to regain his luster in his new home.

Holding a piece of colored paper with his goals for the season. To become a member of the first team, and to pitch with his characteristic aggressiveness.
Legendary trainer Seiichiro Nakagaki, who trained Shohei Otani and Yu Darvish at Nichi-Ham, personally instructed him.
Improving muscle strength through weight training. He is well on his way to reviving the fastball that got the Koshien baseball team in a frenzy.
Interview with Kosei Yoshida: “I was so surprised that my mind went blank……I will return to my original mind at the new place!
Interview with Kosei Yoshida: “I was so surprised that my head went completely white……I’m going back to the basics in a new place!
Interview with Kosei Yoshida: “I was so surprised that my head went completely white……I’m going back to my original intention in the new place!

From the March 15, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Hiroyuki Komatsu

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