Celebrating the first Koshien victory! Hirofumi Aoyagi, Manager of Kentai Takasaki, reveals his coaching methods: “I will not send out players who lack humility. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Celebrating the first Koshien victory! Hirofumi Aoyagi, Manager of Kentai Takasaki, reveals his coaching methods: “I will not send out players who lack humility.

After a life as a businessman, Aoyagi, who has zero coaching experience, has been leading the baseball team since its founding in 2002.

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Director Aoyagi (center) surrounded by club members. In the beginning, the club did not have a dedicated practice field, so they played on a tennis court. The players were not forced to cut their hair, but they did so voluntarily.

The plan was to participate in the Koshien Tournament for the first time in the first 10 years of the club’s existence, become a regular participant in the tournament in the next 10 years, and win the championship in the 10 years after that. The championship came earlier than planned. It is thanks to all of you.”

Takasaki University of Health and Welfare, Takasaki High School (hereafter, Kentai Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture), won the championship for the first time this spring in the National High School Baseball Tournament. Hirofumi Aoyagi, 51, the coach of the team, had in his mind the faces of players and alumni with whom he had shared many hardships. We would like to introduce his unique life and unique coaching methods in his own words.

Aoyagi played in the Koshien Tournament in the spring of his junior year as the No. 4 hitter for the Maebashi Sho baseball team. After graduating from Tohoku Fukushi University, he took a break from baseball to find a job.

He said, “I played softball at a parts manufacturer where I found employment, and enjoyed baseball as a recreational activity after changing jobs at a local construction company. At the construction company, I worked in the general affairs department and learned how an organization should work, and at the same time, I wanted to coach high school baseball someday.

The chance came in 2002. The previous year, the high school attached to Gunma Women’s Junior College had become a co-educational school, Kentai Takasaki, and the company was looking for a coach for its new baseball team. He was approached by his former teacher at Maebashi Shoji, and thought that he could aim for the Koshien Tournament, even though he had no coaching experience. However, reality was not so easy.

When I asked the club members to shave their heads as a greeting, about five of the 15 members quit. About half of them had baseball experience and no motivation ……. Their attitude toward practice was poor, and they would sit out halfway through. Just before our first official game, the club members were found to be smoking and were even suspended.”

With the generous support of the school, the team gradually gained strength and made its first appearance in the Koshien Tournament in the summer of 2011, ten years after the team had set its sights on the tournament. From that point on, the team became a regular participant in the tournament. Behind the success of the team was the division of labor that was adopted for team coaching.

In the beginning, the team was led by myself and the head of the department, but there was a limit to how many members we could take care of. When I was a businessman, I had experienced how a company runs when there are managers who can fulfill their respective roles, so I thought that the division of labor would strengthen the team. Therefore, we hired many coaches by asking alumni and others. We put them in charge of hitting, defense, base running, scouting, and other areas, and gave them responsibility for each. We now have a staff of about eight. The coaches also come up with the practice menu.

The team has been able to attract good players from all over the country, but that alone will not make it a strong team.

The kids who have a good track record in junior high school are very proud,” he said. But without honesty and humility, their abilities will not grow. Even if a player has excellent technique, if he doesn’t work hard and stink of mud, we won’t let him play in the games. This is because we want them to think about why they are not being used and have the desire to work hard. Members of the club are either on the mainstay, development, or rookie team, but just being good at baseball is not enough to make the mainstay team. There are many kids who have realized the importance of humility and have grown into regular players.

The next goal is to win back-to-back spring and summer championships.

In the summer, when there are many games, you need three ace-class pitchers to win. In addition to our current two mainstay pitchers, we will bring up another pitcher by the summer in order to win the national championship.

Manager Aoyagi’s goal is to play “spectacular baseball. Aoyagi’s goal is “spectacular baseball,” baseball that goes against the grain and captivates the audience.

Hirofumi Aoyagi, coach of Kentai Takasaki, reveals his coaching methods: “I will not send out players who lack humility.
Hirofumi Aoyagi, coach of Kentai Takasaki, reveals his coaching methods: “I don’t send out players who don’t have humility.

From the April 26, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Masayoshi Katayama (journalist) Masayoshi Katayama (Journalist) PHOTO Hiroyuki Komatsu

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