Seirei showed tenacity in the Tokai Tournament last fall, despite being without their mainstay players, and won the quarterfinals and semifinals in two straight games with a comeback win in the ninth inning to finish runner-up. It seems strange that Seirei was eliminated from the tournament on the basis of ‘individual ability’ when they had achieved such a good result. When I talked to the leaders whom I know, they all said, ‘This selection was impossible.
So says Seiichiro Ogura, former head of the Yokohama High School baseball team, known as a master baseball player who trained Daisuke Matsuzaka and others.
Seirei Christopher High School (Shizuoka), the runner-up in the Tokai Tournament last fall, was unexpectedly eliminated from the Senbatsu Tournament. The reason was that Ogaki Nichidai University (Gifu), which finished in the top four, was “superior in individual ability” to Seirei. The unprecedented decision by the selection committee for the Tokai region has been questioned by various circles, as the runner-up school has been selected for more than 40 years in the past.
Not only famous high school baseball captains such as the aforementioned Ogura and Hitoshi Takashima, honorary manager of Chiben Wakayama, but also big names in the baseball world such as Yu Darvish and Koji Uehara have criticized the High School Baseball Federation. Even the mayor of Hamamatsu City and the governor of Shizuoka Prefecture issued angry comments.
Seirei alumni are also signing a petition to become the 33rd school to participate in the tournament, and over 10,000 signatures have already been collected. However, as if to put a lid on such criticism, the Federation of Japan High School Baseball Associations announced on February 10 that “the details (of the selection process) are not suitable for public disclosure,” emphasizing that the curtain is being pulled back.
Nonfiction writer Yuji Yanagawa, who has been covering the issue, tells us.
Seirei coach Toshimasa Uemura told me, ‘Imagine how much it would hurt the players who thought they could play 100% of the games if they lost that 100%. The players can’t do it,'” he said. As the school’s principal, Uemura must have felt as if he had been denied the entirety of his attitude as an educator.
He has not protested to the Federation of Japan High School Baseball Associations because it is not his intention to stir things up before the Senbatsu tournament, but I think he really wants to ‘clarify what happened in the selection process for the sake of the students.
The two schools selected from the Tokai region were chosen by the region’s eight-member selection committee. Details of the members have not been disclosed, but they reportedly include former Keio University coach Kazushi Onijima, chairman of the committee, and Saiya Watanabe, president of the Shizuoka Prefecture High School Baseball Federation, as well as officials from the high school baseball federation and college baseball. Why was this inexplicable selection process carried out? An official of the Shizuoka Prefectural High School Baseball Federation said, “The selection process was so inexplicable that it is difficult to understand.
A source from the Shizuoka Prefectural High School Baseball Federation said, “Opinions were divided even among the selection committee. However, some of the committee members strongly favored Ogaki Nichidai, and it was decided to select Ogaki Nichidai. There are rumors of backroom deals and collusion, but the selection committee members may have genuinely thought that Ogaki was stronger. Only two schools can be selected from the Tokai region. In order to increase the number of slots available, they probably chose the one with the best chance of winning at Koshien. From the point of view of the selection committee, it must have been unexpected that it would be such a big problem.”
Whatever the reason, without a clear explanation, the Seiryo Nine will be left traumatized. The current system, in which the selection committee members decide on the schools to be selected behind closed doors and do not reveal the process, has already reached its limits. As the aforementioned Mr. Ogura said, “The current system has already reached its limits.
When I was in Yokohama, there were some questionable selections, but this time they have gone too far. We have to give Seirei a special mention to get things settled. Ogaki Nichidai will not be able to go to Koshien with a good feeling if this is the case. I think it is necessary to make clear rules such as, ‘The winner and runner-up of the regional tournament are guaranteed to participate.
The Seirei Nine have already resumed practice for the summer. For once, though, we would like to see the High School Baseball Federation show “flexibility.
Photo： Kyodo News (Director Uemura) Jiji Press (Mr. Onijima)