Ask the players!
Tsuyoshi Shinjo, 50, manager of Nippon Ham, did not say much after the 4-0 win over Seibu on May 21, attributing the victory to the players. The team had won seven of its eight games through that day. The team’s debt was reduced from a maximum of 14 games to 9, and they are now 3.5 games ahead of the third-place Orix, which means they are in sight of joining the A-Class (results as of May 23).
Shinjo said, “At the beginning of the season, the batting lineup changed from day to day to see how strong the lineup would be,” but gradually the regulars have become fixed. Manager Shinjo began to use the right players in the right places based on his understanding of their abilities, and the team began to flow.
Shinjo’s strict attitude has also inspired the players. On May 10, when the team lost to the Orix, who had lost their mainstay due to the spread of the new coronavirus, he scolded the players, saying, “You have to be determined to stay in the first team. I don’t see you wanting to stay in the first team at all. As long as you don’t take out the bat, you’ll never get results.”
The contents of the video that the player praised so highly
Yuki Nomura, who broke his nose on May 18 when he was hit in the face with a dead ball, continued to play the next day, leading the team with six consecutive hits through May 21. Chusei Mannami, who is also in charge of the middle lineup, hit his first two home runs in one game on the 18th. He has now surpassed last year’s total of five and is on pace to set a new personal record.
Shingo Usami, who hit his third two-run shot against Seibu on the 21st, praised Shinjo’s teachings, saying, “Thanks for the videos”.
Shinjo recommended that Usami watch videos of Barry Bonds, who hit 762 homers for the Giants in his Major League career. After repeatedly watching the video, Usami said, ‘I can now see the ball longer,’ and he has maintained a strong batting average of over 30% in May.
Even though he is doing well, Shinjo has not lost his attitude that regular players are not set in stone. He is counting on the competitive spirit of the players.
If the team continues to make rapid progress, a major comeback from the bottom of the standings will become a reality. However, there is a major “cause for concern” if they are to challenge the A-Class.
Manager Shinjo expects Kotaro Kiyomiya to be the mainstay of the batting lineup, along with Nomura and Mannami. His batting average is in the low .200 range with only four home runs. Shinjo often complains, “He’s not what I expected,” and “He’s not what I imagined. If Kiyomiya doesn’t make a breakthrough, we won’t be able to form a cleanup lineup with Nomura and Mannami, and we can’t hope for further improvement in the batting lineup.
However, Kiyomiya has a good upbringing and a calm personality. I don’t feel that he is bold in his hitting. He is also very aware of his surroundings. Whether or not he can become a gumshoe and wake up, not only Kiyomiya’s future but also the team’s ups and downs will depend on it.
The big boss is not letting up just yet as the interchange games begin on May 24.
Photo： Jiji Press