Dora1 Kohshiki’s former teacher in college changed him into a man who can win in the pros. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Dora1 Kohshiki’s former teacher in college changed him into a man who can win in the pros.

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Kosaika got his first professional win in an exchange game against Chunichi on June 8. In high school, he probably never imagined he would look like this.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who won their first interleague game, will have their first draft pick, rookie left-hander Tatsuru Kosei (22), start against Seibu in Yamagata on June 28. His matchup with Seibu’s ace Tatsuya Imai (26) is sure to draw a lot of attention.

Kosaikan was promoted to the first team in May, and in his second professional game on June 8 against Chunichi, he pitched six innings and allowed two runs while stranding runners in scoring position from start to finish. After his first professional win, he raised his hands modestly in the Bantelein Dome. His former coach, Hirohisa Saito, 58, who coached him when he was at Toin University of Yokohama, watched his pupil on TV at every game.

When I first saw him, he was really thin, so I got the impression that he had grown a lot. The first time I saw Kosaika pitch in a game was in May of his junior year of high school. I had always had an image that tall left-handed pitchers have poor control, but Kosae was about 182 cm tall, but he was dexterous with his fingers, could handle a variety of breaking pitches, and got strikes. At the time, I didn’t think he could become a professional pitcher, but I felt he could help the team (Toin University of Yokohama).

At the time, he weighed in at 50 kg, about 20 kg lighter than now. Kosaika’s high school baseball career came to an easy end later in the summer when he lost a cold game to prefectural Sagamihara High School in the third round of the Kanagawa Tournament.

I never heard directly from him, but I heard that he wanted to become a hotelier after graduating from high school. He didn’t have the confidence to continue playing baseball, but thanks to our style of practice, which emphasizes independence and individuality while respecting the discipline that must be maintained within the team, we won 17 league championships, so he seemed to like this style.

Seeing how Kosaika practiced, I was convinced that he wanted to become a hotelier. Even though he works hard, his inner passion does not show. There was a part of me that dubbed the modest Kosaika as a profession that takes a step back and puts a lot of thought into making customers feel good about their stay.

Before Kosaika, coach Saito, who produced six professional players from Toin University of Yokohama, felt that pitcher Kosaika had something extraordinary about him. The spin on his pitches was so effective that they did not lose speed as they approached home base.

He said, “The art of throwing a ball of this quality cannot be taught. In high school, I wasn’t invited by the pros or had any success, so it’s no wonder I lacked confidence. However, I had a feeling that I could become a winning pitcher at our school and even in the workforce, so for a while after Kosaikai entered the school, I kept telling him, ‘You are a much better pitcher than you think you are.

Kosaikan, who commuted from his home in Kanagawa Prefecture, focused on weight training, which he did not do much while at Shonan Gakuin High School, and as his body became heavier, his pitch speed also increased. As his body became heavier, his pitching speed increased. Between practices, Furusawa could be seen eating onigiri (rice balls) that he had brought from home. The first turning point came in his sophomore spring league game against Kanagawa Institute of Technology, his debut appearance for Toin University of Yokohama, when he allowed a no-hit no-run until the second death in the eighth inning.

The batter was swinging after the ball landed in the catcher’s mitt. That’s how long Kosaikai’s throw was extended near home. Even as I watched from the bench, I thought, ‘He can’t hit that. That game gave me confidence.

Another factor that makes Kosaikai’s ball look fast is his unique form, with a small take-back that makes it difficult to see where the ball is coming from. Shonan Gakuin High School invited Seiichiro Ogura, former head coach of Yokohama High School, a Koshien regular in the same prefecture, to serve as a temporary coach, and he taught Furuasa to aim for the same position as Yoshihisa Naruse (now player and head coach of the Tochigi Golden Braves), a Yokohama High School alumnus who played for the Lotte and Yakult teams. Even after entering college, Kosaika repeatedly repeated the form of throwing with a net less than 1 m wide, slightly wider than his body, so that his arm would not hit the net.

Coach Saito (right) shakes hands with Kosaika and poses for a photo after receiving his nomination address.

When he became the ace of the team, Manager Saito had a “lightning bolt” moment: in a spring league game against Yokohama National University in his junior year, he gave up five runs in two innings. Before the game, he was concerned about the lack of pitching, so he asked Furusawa during practice before the game, “Are you all right? Furusawa responded with a strong, “I’m fine. Despite the complete trust he had placed in him, Saito could not contain his anger at the betrayal of his pitching.

After the game, I came back here (to the university) and got very angry. He said, “I entrusted him to you because you said it would be all right, but this is the result! ‘” he said.

The team later won the game in come-from-behind fashion, so Kosaikan did not have to pitch the losing pitcher, but the next day he took the mound for the final inning. The next day, Furusawa took the mound for the final inning, and struck out three in a row. Moreover, he hit 150 km/h for the first time. He had acquired the toughness to show better-than-expected results on the mound where he had been punished.

In the fall of that year, he contributed to the league championship with five wins. He also won the league’s best player award. As professional scouts began to pay more attention to the ace, Saito had this to say to him: “It’s not about going to the pros,” he said.

He said, “I told him, ‘It’s not about going pro, but about how you will perform once you are a pro. After his first win, Kosaika commented, “I feel like it’s finally begun,” and “I want to continue to work hard,” but I think he meant it.

I still have more concerns not only about Kosaika, but also about the other players who have gone pro. As for Kosaika, the kindness of his character may sometimes have a negative effect on him. So, if he can gain the confidence of those around him in the pros and build on his accomplishments, I am sure he will become a pitcher who can continue to win.

Saito has a question that he always asks not only Kosai but also the first-year students who join the baseball team at Toin University of Yokohama: “What kind of mission does a person have?

He asks them, “Do you know what kind of mission humans have in life?”
The answer is, “Humans have a mission to grow up and die.”

Before coming to the university, Saito was the baseball team manager at Mito Junior College High School, but he left the position twice. Although he led the team to the Koshien National Championships after returning to Mito Junior High School, his reason for stepping down the second time was “responsibility for the results. When he decided that he would no longer be able to teach baseball and that he would live his life as a physical education teacher, he asked himself, “What is life? He thought deeply about this question. He now continues to pass on to his students the grounding he gained from this experience. Whether you are playing baseball or not, try to be better today than you were yesterday, even if only a little. …… It may be quite normal for Kosaika himself to greedily aim for a second win and continue to seek further growth.

  • PHOTO Courtesy of Kyodo News (1st photo), Courtesy of Coach Saito (2nd photo)

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