Sasaki, Otani, Dal… Surprising background of the “famous coach” who awakened pitchers | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Sasaki, Otani, Dal… Surprising background of the “famous coach” who awakened pitchers

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Yoshii watches Sasaki pitch, taken in February 2008 (Image: Kyodo News)

The youngest player ever to pitch a complete game, 17 consecutive innings without allowing a hit, 22 consecutive innings without allowing a run, and 52 consecutive outs by 52 batters …….

Lotte’s Akinori Sasaki (20) has broken a string of professional baseball records. In Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani (27) of the Angels won last season’s MVP award for his dual role as a pitcher and hitter. Yu Darvish (35), a Padres ace, won 80 games on April 17, the second most by a Japanese pitcher.

The three great pitchers share a common mentor. The three pitchers share a common mentor: Yoshii Rito, 57, pitching coordinator for Lotte, who has coached at Nippon Ham, Softbank, and other teams.

Mr. Yoshii never says anything intrusive. He asks the players, ‘What are your thoughts? and then he presents several training methods, saying, ‘There is a way to do it this way. He doesn’t coach from the top, but rather considers the athlete and coach as equals.

For example, in Sasaki’s case, after talking with him, we decided that even though he had the horsepower to throw a 160-km fastball, his body was not ready. I told him that he should watch and learn from first-round pitchers. Sasaki’s physical training began in his third year, and it was not until this season that he was able to pitch in earnest. If we had been overconfident in Sasaki’s ability and allowed him to pitch from his first year, he would not have been able to pitch as well as he does today.

I’ll stop now.

Yoshii values communication with his players and considers how to coach them based on their aptitude. Yoshii’s calm judgment is evident. However, during his playing days, Yoshii was a hot-tempered, headstrong pitcher. Tetsuro Kato, a former colleague of Yoshii’s at Kintetsu, recalls, “Boku and Yoshii were one and the same.

Boku and Yoshii were one year apart (Kato was one year older) and close in age, so they got along well. He had an intense personality. One time, when we were playing catch in a lazy manner, the coach said to us, ‘Are you guys up to it? He was not at all put off, but instead said, “I’m not going to let you down. Instead of relenting, Yoshii stopped the practice, saying, ‘Well, I’ll stop now. He was a man who would not listen.

Mr. Kato speculates that his experience during his playing days may have led to his current coaching style.

Kintetsu at that time overworked their pitchers. They didn’t care about the pitching interval. Thanks to that, Yoshii broke his elbow. From this experience, he must have thought that it was no good pitching as he was told by his superiors. He thought, “Coaches and managers will not take responsibility for my poor performance or injuries. You have to take care of yourself.

Yoshii moved to Yakult and then tried his hand in the majors. He played for the Mets, Rockies, and other teams. His experience in the U.S. seems to have had a major impact on Yoshii. Mr. Kato continues.

Unlike in Japan, where you are given a task to complete, in the majors, the idea that the coach must be a part of the players is prevalent. Each player’s personality, ability, and way of thinking is different, so they decide on training methods after careful discussion. No matter how many achievements you have made during your career, players will not grow if you impose your own successful experience on them. Yoshii often says, “It is a good coach who does not teach,” and I think that is a conclusion he reached based on his experiences in Japan and the United States.

After retiring, Yoshii continued to study in the majors to learn how to coach. At the graduate school of Tsukuba University, he studied coaching theory.

For pitchers like Sasaki and Ohtani, who have their own unique views on baseball, Mr. Yoshii would be the perfect coach. He understands what they are looking for and shows them the process of growth, taking into account the risk of failure,” said a sports reporter.

Yoshii mentioned that Sasaki left the mound just before his second consecutive perfect game, and posted on his blog, “The bench did well to let him go in the eighth inning. It’s too late to get him off the mound after he breaks down,” he wrote.

  • Photo Kyodo News

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