Increasing the population of young baseball players, even by one person
I attended Urasoe Elementary School, Urasoe Junior High School, and then graduated from Nishihara High School. After that I entered International Pacific University in Okayama Prefecture.
Around graduation season, I wasn’t sure whether I should join a company-sponsored baseball league or not. I didn’t want to give up baseball, so I spoke to my parents and asked if I could spend one whole year just focused on baseball. I joined an independent league in Kagawa Prefecture under the promise that I would return to Okinawa if I was unsuccessful within a year. I played there for a year, then joined the Chunichi Dragons; it will be my sixth year this year.
Characteristics of professional baseball players from Okinawa
We pay visits to senior players who are from Okinawa. I paid my respects to Hiroshima Toyo Carp’s Sohachi Aniya; even if I don’t have previous relationships with a player, I will go and meet them if I know they are from Okinawa. People are surprised to hear I do this just because they are also Okinawan. Famous players will come visit me as well, and I will in turn visit them; it’s a special kind of relationship. Maybe it’s hometown pride. I am proud of Okinawa, and I want to stay connected. I truly am grateful that I am from Okinawa.
About the Professional Baseball Okinawa Kenjinkai
It just launched last year.
The group began when I told a manufacturer that I use regularly about wanting to hold baseball workshops in Okinawa. They suggested the importance of networking, and maintaining vertical and horizontal interpersonal relationships; we came up with establishing the Professional Baseball Okinawa Kenjinkai, and negotiated with each baseball team. I figured if players from each team wearing their uniform came and held a baseball workshop together, this would be a huge gift to Okinawa.
I’m hoping that the kenjinkai baseball workshop will be a yearly event, and I’ll be happy if the population of young baseball players grows, even by one person.
Prospects on career as a professional baseball player
Of course, team victory comes first. Jumping off of that, I want to work towards personal awards as well.
Mr. Higashihama, another player from Okinawa the same age as me, has won winningest player; Mr. Tawata is also a winningest player; as for Mr. Yamakawa, he became a home run leader. I’ve always wanted to be an award-winning Okinawan player.
My background is unique; I was never on the bench in junior high and high school, but switched positions to pitcher at university, and then became a professional baseball player.
If I receive an award with my background, young players who are now worried about not being picked will have hope that anyone can get the chance as long as they continue to play.
I really want young players to think, “If he can become a professional player, then I can too.” This is the best future I can imagine.
Rather than giving up, I think it is important to find an environment where you can continue to play baseball.
A message to young players who are aiming to go professional
Some people will say “it’s impossible for you to play” at you go on to junior high or high school, or some even say negative things like, “You’re still going to play baseball even in high school?” There is no need to listen to those negative comments whatsoever.
Negative comments are said by people who gave up on their own dreams, and don’t want to regret making that choice by seeing others succeed.
But if someone says they want to play baseball, but are being lazy every day, then of course it is right to tell them to quit.
If a person is putting in a lot of effort to improve every day and wants to continue playing baseball somewhere, that person will definitely be guided to a suitable place or receive offers from people. Your daily actions could lead to opportunities two or three years later or relate to other future plans, so it is necessary to build a sustainable environment for yourself.
It is easy to just quit, so I don’t want young players to limit their own potential to prevent their growth.