Two Men Returning from the Majors” Bring Change to Nippon-Ham Fighters | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Two Men Returning from the Majors” Bring Change to Nippon-Ham Fighters

In-depth coverage What is the new professional baseball team from the north, excited by the arrival of Big Boss? ...... Japan's first ballpark opens in '23!

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A new 3-meter-high tower was built during the camp. The players stretched and chatted with the temporary coaches to get a better grasp of their abilities.

This was shortly after Atsunori Inaba (49) and his Samurai Japan team won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

The candidate for the next manager is Takeshi Shinjo, 50.

A senior executive at Nippon Ham’s head office once told this to those around him.

I had not heard about it because it was a given that Mr. Inaba would succeed Hideki Kuriyama (60), and he had already won a gold medal at the Olympics, but when I think back to those days, or even before that, Nippon Ham made Shinjo a symbol of change. I think they had already decided to do so.

On February 28, the teams launched their spring training camps, and sports news was all about the big bosses during the camp period.

This is because he made a series of bizarre moves that mocked the conventional image of a manager, such as using SNS to tamper with players, deciding batting order by drawing lots, and taking charge off the bench. Baseball commentator Tsutomu Iwamoto, an alumnus of Nippon Ham, praised Shinjo, saying, “That is exactly what Nippon Ham was looking for.

The problem for the Fighters was Nippon-Ham baseball, which had never changed, and the resulting slump in popularity. Mr. Kuriyama worked hard to make the team stronger, but the players were stuck in a sensory rut, and it was hard to do anything about it. In the midst of this crisis, a super baseball player, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, an alumnus of the Fighters, returned from Bali.

Seeing his intense love of baseball and the romance of participating in tryouts, which he communicated on SNS, the team leaders decided to entrust him with the task of transforming the team. In fact, Shinjo was the first one to start working on ‘opening the door to the hearts of today’s kids,’ which Mr. Kuriyama could not accomplish, and the players’ eyes began to light up.

One of Inaba’s acquaintances said, “GM Inaba is the one who enjoys Shinjo the most.

‘Acchan is delusional about Shinjo, in a good way.’ Shinjo joined Nippon Ham from the majors in 2004, the year of change when the team moved to Sapporo. I watched closely as he brightened up the team with his flashy performances and filled the stadium to capacity. I even began to imitate Shinjo’s perfume at the ballpark, making him smell good (laughs).

These two met again in the year of change, the year before the completion of the new ballpark the following year. As the face of the new team based in Japan’s first ballpark, there was no one more suitable than Shinjo, a natural entertainer with a thorough knowledge of the American baseball show and fan service. I am convinced that is why he accepted the GM position, saying, ‘If Shinjo is going to be the manager, then I will be the manager.

There is one more person who holds the key to change. He is Ken Maesawa, general manager of the “Fighters Sports & Entertainment” business unit. The aforementioned desk clerk said, “Ken Maezawa is a key figure in the transformation of Fighters Sports & Entertainment.

He joined Nippon Ham as a result of his involvement in the Sapporo relocation project in 2004. He later joined Pacific League Marketing, a joint venture company, from its inception, which created hit programs such as “Pacific League TV. He was also instrumental in creating “Samurai Japan,” the Japanese national team for all generations, in which student baseball and professional baseball went hand in hand. He returned to Nippon Ham in 2003. He has been promoting the ballpark business through tough negotiations with the city of Kita Hiroshima, where the park will be relocated, as well as with companies in and outside of Hokkaido.

When the company relocated to Hokkaido, he sent his staff to the San Diego Padres for six months to study management and PR. This time, he knocked on the door of long-established teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and Mr. Maezawa learned the know-how of the ball park business directly from the vice presidents and other executives.

He learned the know-how of the ballpark business directly from the vice presidents and other executives. NPB has remained almost flat. If you ask me what the difference is, it is the way baseball is perceived. Major league baseball teams build cities when they build new stadiums. Teams are content to bring people in, and the emphasis is on ‘providing a place where customers can be happy, rather than on winning.

Nippon Ham has been able to think like a major player in Japan for the past few years, offering a Chinese-language smart glass service (which displays data such as matchup results) for tourists who come to Japan for Yohdai-kang (35), who is from Taiwan. They will build condominiums and a park beside the new stadium that will open next year. The children who live there will have the privilege of watching Fighters games.

He has experienced the relocation to Sapporo and is familiar with Major League Baseball, which is his goal. The birth of Shinjo was not a surprise, but inevitable.

I thought at his inaugural press conference that he shared the understanding that his first priority is to please the customers. I think this is the first time a manager has said so clearly that he does not aim to win the championship. The reason why he cut all the main players, including Sho Nakata (32), was to get rid of the negative image caused by the violence incident and the low ranking of the team, and to concentrate the funds on Shinjo. They started by cutting costs to cover Shinjo’s special expenses, such as the fireworks display, which were not necessary.

The new form of professional baseball created by “Shinjo Ham” is now dimly visible.

Image of the new stadium “ESCON Field HOKKAIDO. There are also a campground, a shopping mall, and a hospital in the vicinity.
Rookies pose for a photo at the new stadium. The stadium has a capacity of 35,000 on natural grass. There is also a hotel, hot springs, and sauna inside the stadium.
The team slogan is “Fans are Treasures. Manager Shinjo and GM Inaba (right), who are close in age and know each other well, are taking on the challenge of change!
Shinjo, Manager: “Two men returning from the majors” to bring change to the Nippon Ham Fighters

From the March 18, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Courtesy of Jiji Press/Fighters Sports & Entertainment (2nd) Jiji Press (3rd)

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