“It’s not like that!
The stern voice of Shinnosuke Abe, manager of the Giants’ second team, echoed through the Giants’ stadium in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The man being coached is Sho Nakata (32), who was demoted from the first team on September 11. After the assault incident, he was transferred from Nippon Ham, but has been struggling with a .150 batting average and one home run. On the farm, he has been under the strict tutelage of manager Abe every day.
It was decided that Nakata would return to the first team on September 21. He was promoted back to the first team only 10 days after being demoted. In the background, there was extraordinary support from the Giants’ top brass.
“Nakata listened to Manager Abe’s words with a serious expression on his face. It seems that his strict guidance paid off. When he was with Nippon Ham, he was the oldest fielder except for Shinya Tsuruoka, who was 40 years old and also a coach. He was the “king of the mountain,” and no one warned him about his unrestrained behavior until the assault incident. Abe’s stern treatment of him seems to have changed the color of his eyes.
Abe doesn’t just yell at them. In the game against Rakuten on September 16, he instructed Nakata not to swing at any pitch before he came to bat. Before Nakata came to bat against Rakuten on September 16, he instructed him, “Don’t swing at a single pitch. I’m sure he meant, ‘If you’re a good hitter, the second-string pitchers will be scared and the count will be in your favor. He probably meant, ‘Watch the ball carefully. I think he was trying to tickle Nakata’s ego.
In fact, Nakata had an overwhelming performance in the second team, batting .500 with four home runs and 13 runs scored in six games (results as of September 20). His batting average was .500 in six games, with four home runs and 13 runs batted in (as of September 20), and manager Abe had this to say.
“Abe said, “I feel like my natural ability has come back to me.
The meaning of the number 10
There are many other players in the second team who need to develop. Why did manager Abe focus on Nakata?
“Tatsunori Hara’s term as manager of the first team ends this season. He was once rumored to be retiring. If he can revive Nakata, who was once rumored to be retiring, it will be a great achievement for him as a leader to become the manager of the first team. Nakata’s number is “10”. His number is 10, the same as Abe’s number when he was an active manager. Naturally, Manager Hara must have told him in advance and he must have agreed. I can feel how much he cares about Nakata.
Abe was not the only manager who gave Nakata one-on-one coaching. “When he visited the Giants’ stadium on September 13, he gave him an enthusiastic lesson for nearly an hour, using gestures and hands.
“It is unusual for Mr. Nakata to visit the Tokyo Dome twice to teach Nakata directly. I’m so grateful to you for making time for me,” Nakata said with much trepidation.
He must have been satisfied with Nakata’s condition. He must have been satisfied with Nakata’s condition, because after his instruction on the 13th, he said, “I came to see you because I was worried about your lack of results, but you are fine. I told him to keep a good posture and to be aware of turning his waist strongly. I’m sure you’ll be able to see Nakata’s huge home run at Tokyo Dome soon.
I understand that Abe, as the manager in charge of the farm team, was trying to revitalize the “problem child” Nakata, who had been stagnant since he was acquired even though he was prepared to face criticism. But where does Mr. Abe’s strong attachment to him come from?
“He likes to play dynamic baseball, hitting home runs. When he was manager, he nurtured Hideki Matsui and acquired many number four hitters from other teams, including Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Katsumi Hirosawa, Hiromitsu Ochiai and Hiroo Ishii. I think he wants Nakata to take over the baseball Mr. Abe wants him to play.
Director Abe’s thorough guidance and Mr. Abe’s direct encouragement. With such generous support, it is no wonder that Nakata has been promoted.
On the other hand, there are some factors to worry about.
“Nakata was called ‘the general’ during his days at Nippon Ham and has a dynamic image, but he has a very sensitive personality. There is a possibility that he will feel pressure from the expectations of the big brass and may shrink in the first team. I’ve been taking it easy in the Pacific League, but this is the first time I’ve been in the spotlight.
Even if he practices quietly, he must be feeling a lot of stress. Nakata is known for his love of children, but he has been forced to live alone in a hotel away from his family in Sapporo. Due to the new coronavirus, he can’t even go out for a drink to take his mind off things. I’m worried that he’s so overwhelmed that he’s going to have a flat tire.
Nakata is expected to return to the first team and start immediately. In order to live up to the extraordinary expectations of the fans and heavyweights, he will have to overcome the strongest pressure he has ever experienced.
Photo： Image: Jiji Press, courtesy of the Yomiuri Giants