Veteran Players Nagano, Uchikawa and Taishi Ota’s Strength and Weaknesses – Will they Still Have Place in Baseball Despite Their Age? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Veteran Players Nagano, Uchikawa and Taishi Ota’s Strength and Weaknesses – Will they Still Have Place in Baseball Despite Their Age?

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Nagano drinking a beer. He is accompanied by Daichi Osera, Makoto Aduwa, and other junior players at a restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo, in May 2007.

Hisayoshi Nagano, 37, of Hiroshima, is a man of few words, most especially to the media. His comments have always been minimal. But after his first start of the season against the Giants on April 7, he seems to be more at ease.

“Today was the anniversary of Taku-san’s death,” he said ” I think it was good that I was able to play an active role on a day like this.”

Taku-san refers to Takuya Kimura, 37, who passed away suddenly on April 7, 2010. He was the infield defense base coach for the Giants in 2010 when Nagano was a rookie. He fell ill with a subarachnoid hemorrhage during pre-game practice at Mazda Stadium on April 2 of the same year, and died five days later. Nagano had two hits and drove in three runs in a game at the same Mazda Stadium on the anniversary of Kimura’s death.

It was a very righteous comment by Nagano to express his sympathy for Taku-san. Nagano was always polite and respectful to his superiors. That’s why he is said to have the best attitude in baseball.

A restaurant that invited a new foreigner for his birthday

However, age-related decline cannot be hidden. Last year, he played in 71 games, the fewest in his professional career, and his .216 batting average, two home runs, and 13 runs batted in were all career worst. Even so, he says his presence on the team is significant.

He is always attentive not only to his superiors but also to his teammates. He is the self-proclaimed ‘banquet manager,’ and since his days with the Giants, he often invites his junior teammates out to dinner and serves as a sounding board for them. Many of the younger players call Nagano “Cho-san” and adore him.

He speaks English and some Spanish, so he is very active in communicating with foreign players. McBroom, a new assistant, was invited by Nagano to a Kobe beef restaurant on April 9, his birthday, and was happy, saying, “It was the best birthday ever”. Nagano’s presence is a big reason why Hiroshima, which had been underdogs after its star player, Seiya Suzuki, left the team, is now battling for the top spot. Even though he may not get as many opportunities to play, he is indispensable to the team.

Taishi Ota, 31, who moved to DeNA from Nippon Ham, is also making his presence felt with his new team. I’ve always wanted to contribute to the team, but I haven’t been able to do it very often. If I could, I would be happy.

Manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo wanted to use young players more aggressively, and Ota was effectively ruled out of the lineup by Nichi-Ham. Although he doesn’t say so in words, I’m sure he feels strongly that he wants to make up for it. When he was with the Giants, he was expected to be the second generation of Godzilla, but he failed to produce results and fell into disarray. He will be a good stimulus for DeNA, which has not won a championship for 24 years since 1998.

Some veterans are in a difficult situation. Seiichi Uchikawa, 39, of the Yakult baseball team, is a two-time top hitter and five-time best nine-inning hitter.

Last year, he finished with a .208 batting average and zero home runs. Uchikawa, who has 2,000 hits, will turn 40 this August. The decline of his performance is becoming obvious as he age more.

Uchikawa has a tendency to speak out, even to managers and coaches, when he is not satisfied with something. During his time at SoftBank, he even had a dispute with the leadership. His single-minded and headstrong personality is regarded as ‘difficult to handle’ and may be having a negative effect on him.

Veteran players are divided. Although their opportunities to participate are diminishing, they continue to make desperate appeals in their respective positions.

  • Photo by Takahiro Kagawa

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