Category Archives: Baseball

Long road to Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs' Naoto Masamoto
Chicago Cubs video coordinator Naoto Masamoto overcame poor English ability through effort and has earned a lifetime of experience in American baseball.

This is a favorite story of mine of one of the many interesting Japanese people I’ve met from going to the baseball winter meetings the past five years. Naoto Masamoto is now the Chicago Cubs’ video coordinator, but he’s done a lot, lot more.

Naoto Masamoto thought his baseball career was over after he finished high school in Japan, but he made the most of his father’s business move to America to launch a career that took him to the major leagues.

“Not good. Not good at all,” Masamoto said of his English ability went he went abroad with his dad to the States. “I had one American kid on my little league team, maybe that helped. Maybe not.”

In order to pursue a career as an athletic trainer, Masamoto attended the University of Massachusetts, and when he found out they had a baseball program, he restarted his career on the field.

“I just walked into the coach’s office,” he said.

And asked if he could play.

“Yep. That was pretty much it.”

Read the full story at the Japan Times.

Tsutsugo calls for revolution

Power hitters Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Sho Nakata
Power hitters Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Sho Nakata talk to reporters after National team practice in March 2016 at Nagoya Stadium. As a youth baseball consultant, Tsustugo is now trying to alter his country’s slap-hitting mindset.

Slap-happy Japan fails to launch

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, cleanup hitter of the Yokohama-based DeNA BayStars, on Sunday told elementary and junior high school baseball coaches on Sunday that they need to accept the fly-ball revolution and stop teaching hitters to try and hit ground balls (see links below on related studies). Tsutsugo has told the club he would like to be posted next autumn so he can play in the major leagues in 2020.

According to a Nikkan Sports story, Tsutsugo’s first duty as a sports advisor in his hometown of Hashimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, was to tell the 50 coaches in attendance that the days of chopping down on the ball were over.

His argument was that most coaches for the most part impart their own experiences only and don’t update their thinking, and that since times have definitely changed the only way to prepare kids for the future was for the coaches to learn new ways.

Since back in the day, he said, it’s been “Hit down on the ball. But everyone is different. Even pros swing the bat parallel to the ground while a lot even have slight downswings.”

He explained about the “fly ball revolution” and that rather than hit ground balls, generating lift with a 30 degree launch angle would generate more hits and more home runs. Tsutsugo pleaded with the coaches to study the matter.

Individual effort

Tsutsugo also encouraged coaches to let the kids think for themselves and railed against the primacy of winning among coaches, saying, “That leads to abusive language and shaming players instead of teaching.”

Speaking to about 70 people at a sports festival later that day, he preached his mantra that kids shouldn’t be talked down to for making mistakes.

“There’s no shame in making errors,” he said. “Not trying for fear of making a mistake is the worst possible outcome.”