Emerging Players Lose Faith in Okada’s “Showa Baseball” Approach as Hanshin Tigers Pursuing Allenpa Unexpectedly Struggle | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Emerging Players Lose Faith in Okada’s “Showa Baseball” Approach as Hanshin Tigers Pursuing Allenpa Unexpectedly Struggle

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Last season, the Hanshin Tigers, who thrilled the archipelago by winning the No. 1 title in Japan for the first time in 38 years, have been having a tough time in exhibition games, winning just two games including nine consecutive losses (numbers as of March 21).

After last year’s victory, everyone in the Tigers’ party was bragging that they had won the Allenpa Cup, but it is now being said that manager Akifu Okada’s (66) Showa Baseball has taken its toll and some young players are failing to show their potential.

I hope that the team’s condition will somehow improve by the time the season starts.

The results of last year’s team speak for themselves. The players haven’t changed, but the camp looked a little different even though we did the same things. In that sense, we seem to have become a bigger team.

Okada’s words at the press conference held on February 27 at the end of the Ginoza camp in Okinawa showed his confidence in the team’s ability to win back-to-back Japanese championships for the first time in the history of the baseball team. 

We had no other major injuries and were able to finish the camp without any serious problems, Okada said. We did not make any major reinforcements in the off-season, probably because most of our regular players are in their mid-twenties and we believe there is still a lot of room for growth.

However, there is no way that the five Central League teams other than Hanshin, who suffered a bitter loss last year, will easily forgive Alenpa.


The Giants have added a major-league player in Rougned Odor (30). Nakahi, which finished last for the second straight year for the first time in team history due to a lack of scoring, acquired the cannon Sho Nakata (34). Yakult also acquired Munetaka Murakami (24), who had been in a slump until the middle of the season, and DeNA’s first-round draft pick Takateru Watarai (21) has been hitting well in the open games and giving the team a boost. Hanshin’s encirclement network is steadily being built.


While other teams have been reinforcing their players, Hanshin’s young players have not developed as much as expected.

Okada praised two young players, Hideki Okadome (24) and Ukyo Maekawa (20), as the camp MVPs, but the other young players have been listless. When I tried to find out the reason, I found that the young Tigers are not accustomed to Okada’s Showa-era coaching methods, and seem to have lost confidence in him.

After the press conference on February 23, the first day of the opening game against the Giants, Okada angrily slapped his hat on his head and got into his car.

The young Tigers were trembling when they heard the news. From Okada’s point of view, it was just a performance to cheer up the sloppy team, but the young players took it seriously and got scared. In recent years, it has become the norm in amateur baseball, including high school baseball, for coaches not to convey their complaints to their players. Because they are not tolerant of it, they take it as a big deal. 

The three Arakan leaders, consisting of head coach Katsuo Hirata (64), hitting coach Eiji Mizuguchi (55), and infield defense and base running coach Toshifumi Baba (59), are desperately trying to neutralize the temperature difference between the manager and the younger players.

Katsuo Hirata plays the unlikable role. He personally thunders down on the players in meetings. Okada’s coach, Mizuguchi, who is also a Waseda University alumnus and spent time with Orix. Both coaches, Baba, met with Coach Okada are the ones who drop thunderbolts on the players. The three have been struggling with the grumpy boss since the end of camp, and there is much talk among the players that it would be a sign of trouble if any of the three left the team.

The breakwater seems to be functioning at the moment, but it could break at any moment. I hope the team can somehow hold on and support the feat of becoming the first Allenpa in the history of the baseball team.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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