Cheers at the old stomping ground! Sho Nakata in distress, why “the longing for his return to Nichi-Ham is growing”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Cheers at the old stomping ground! Sho Nakata in distress, why “the longing for his return to Nichi-Ham is growing”.

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Nakata responds to the fans’ cheers with two hits and three runs batted in against Nichi-Ham on March 28. Nakata remains popular in Hokkaido (Image: Kyodo News)

When Nakata went to bat as a substitute at a good opportunity, the crowd of 27,235 gave him a big round of applause. In the stands, many of Nakata’s uniforms with the number “6” from his Nippon Ham days and towels with his name embroidered on them could be seen.


Sho Nakata (33) of the Giants responded to the cheers from fans on both sides of the fence by blasting a straight ball from a full count. It was a timely final hit.

The game was held on May 28 at Sapporo Dome between Nichi-Ham and the Giants. Nakata, who entered the game in the middle of the game, also hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning, giving him two hits and three runs batted in. This was Nakata’s first appearance at Sapporo Dome since he was transferred to the Giants in a free trade last August after an assault incident. In his hero interview after the game, Nakata was deeply moved.

I was really happy from the bottom of my heart to see so many people holding up towels and uniforms (from his days with NIHAM).

Despite his success against his old club, Nakata’s days with the Giants continue to be difficult.

He was expected to be a center fielder, but last year he batted .154 with three homers. This season, too, his batting average is in the low .200s and he has hit only five home runs (as of May 29). He has not earned the trust of manager Tatsunori Hara, who prefers players who consistently produce at a high rate. He has not been able to establish himself as a regular, and is often used as a substitute hitter. This must be a difficult situation for Nakata, who gets better by playing in games all the time. With the Giants, he is a complete supporting player.

When he was with Nichi-Ham, he was in the opposite position. Hideki Kuriyama, the manager at the time, continued to use Nakata as the No. 4 pitcher even though he was not doing well. The team was built around Nakata. Nakata must have felt at home because he was always the star of the team.

Why the players are clamoring for Nakata to join the team

Nakata’s expression is somewhat dull for the Giants, where he spends a lot of time on the bench and is sometimes ordered to bunt. It would not be surprising if he feels a longing to return to his former team, Nichi-Ham, where he used to shine. Will he ever return to his old team?

Nakata is still very popular at Nichi-Ham, as evidenced by the loud cheering he received at the Sapporo Dome. A year has passed since the assault, and some say that the misogyny is over. There is no doubt that many fans are eagerly awaiting his return.

And it is not only the fans who are eagerly awaiting Nakata’s return. Nakata is also trusted by the players of Nichi-Ham. He has been known to invite his younger teammates who were not doing well out to dinner and to act as a sounding board for them. He is called the ‘general’ and is still adored by the players.

At the beginning of the game against the Giants, Kenshi Sugitani, Nakata’s younger brother from his days at Nichi-Ham, came to bat with the song “My HERO” (by the Beagle Crew) playing. After the game, Nakata was beaming with joy at his junior’s thoughtful gesture. I was happy and grateful. I thought I was the best teammate.

If the slump continues, I think there is a good chance the Giants will release Nakata this offseason. Frankly speaking, he has not been a great asset to the team. The only team that I can think of that would be interested in acquiring him is Nichi-Ham. Other teams would have a hard time acquiring a player who has been involved in an assault case.

It would be a big advantage for NIHAM. The current team has many young players and no core players. Kotaro Kiyomiya and Nakamasa Mannami would still be a heavy burden. Nakata, with his presence, would be the core of the team and lead it. For NIHAM, which is languishing in last place and suffering from low attendance, Nakata, who is popular among fans, is an ideal candidate. The rest will depend on the judgment of big boss Takeshi Shinjo and GM Atsunori Inaba.

At the Giants game, Nichi-Ham handed out stuffed toys of the salmon character “Shakemaru” to 10,000 visitors. The character was given in the hope that the players would return to their homes and score points, just like the salmon returning to the river where they were born and raised. The “Shakemaru” effect may help Nakata return to his home ground.

  • Photo Kyodo News

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