Shinjo’s world

On Thursday, Nov. 4, Tsuyoshi Shinjo was introduced by Nippon Ham Fighters owner Yoshihide Hata, and the club’s NPB representative Koji Kawamura, who said Shinjo has been tasked with 1) with fielding a winning team, and 2) being fan-friendly and drawing crowds.

Get ready for different

The 49-year-old Shinjo, dressed in a bright reddish suit with a white shirt with huge cuffs and collar, then made a brief statement:

Shinjo: “Thanks for coming. It’s been 75 years since 1946 when the (franchise’s) first manager Yokozawa took over until the 21st manager, (outgoing skipper Hideki) Kuriyama was in charge. Next as the 22nd manager, I’ve been selected and have signed a contract as player-manager…”

Kawamura: “No. Just manager.”

Shinjo: “…Just the manager? OK. Sorry about that. I came dressed smartly in the fashion of a manager (fingers his huge collar and laughs). Going forward, I’m going to, without changing the way I look, change the team. That’s all.”

Weird questions and answers

  • –welcome back.
  • Shinjo: “Thanks. I’m home. I’ve arrived.”
  • -can you share your emotions from when you were offered the job?
  • Shinjo: “Honestly, I was the most surprised. On one hand I wondered if it was really OK for me to do this, while on the other side I thought that I was the only one for this job.”
  • “I want to change Nippon Ham. I want to change pro yakyu, and for those reasons I’ve returned.”
  • -What was your first thought upon hearing the offer?
  • Shinjo: “Two years, ago, at the age of 48, I said I would apply to take part in the (NPB joint) tryout. And then I went abroad to train for a year. Right before the tryout, someone from the Fighters contacted me and said, ‘Shinjo-san, how are you? Good luck at the tryout. I’m looking forward to seeing you again at some point.'”
  • “I thought, ‘Great. I’m going to be able to go back to being a player. And took that feeling with me into the tryout, and for six days I thought, these are the only six days I have. And on the sixth day, when no one came to me. I thought, ‘Hold on. Something’s wrong.'”
  • “But then I thought that although I was not able to make a comeback as a player something could come of it, that for a year, I had been toiling alongside farm players of the 12 teams, giving it my all and studying, that someone might take notice of that effort. I believed that. Then on Oct. 11, I received word about being offered the managing job.”
  • -what did the team ask you?
  • Shinjo: “Is it ok for me to say?”
  • Kawamura: “As I told you before, the first request was for the team to win, the second to be fan friendly.'”
  • Shinjo: “I’m absolutely not going to aspire to win the pennant. If you aim too high, like for a pennant, the players aren’t going to play well in my opinion.”
  • “The combined effect of practicing day in and day out as you head into the season, then find you’ve stayed relaxed in a game and won, and kept winning, then when you get to September if you’re in the pennant race, it’s, ‘Let’s go for the championship.’ Then the motivation comes. That’s the team I want, one that doesn’t aim for the pennant.” (Smiles…)
  • -did you talk over the offer with anyone before you accepted?
  • Shinjo: “I’m not the type to discuss things (with others). I haven’t ever talked over anything with someone else. The person I discuss things with is myself. I decide on my own.”
  • how did you respond to the offer?
  • Shinjo: “I gave them one line: ‘Please! I’ll do it.'”
  • -What made you decide?
  • Shinjo: “I wanted to manage. During the time I lived in Bali, Nippon Ham’s condition did not improve these past three years, and I kind of thought this is my time. I had that feeling.”
  • What does being a manager mean to you?
  • Shinjo: “I have an image is of someone who’s stiff, who looks serious as he copes with different things. But going forward, I’d like to change the image of what a manager is.”
  • -You played for different managers. You said you want to create a new image. Can you explain?
  • Shinjo: “This is my first year, so I can’t really say how it will turn out. But in regards to what I do, I hope to meet the image that people all over the country have for me as manager.”
  • -You handed out business cards to the media saying “Bigboss Shinjo” but did not say manager or have the Chinese characters for manager. Can you talk about that?
  • Shinjo: “Please everyone, don’t call me manager. ‘Big boss.’ Please make it big boss. I like big boss. I don’t need ‘Manager Shinjo.’ I’m not really very managerial, right? Please call me ‘big boss.’ I want the players to call me that, too.'”
  • -What does it mean?
  • Shinjo: “In Indonesia, in Bali, I was called that. That’s all. That’s just the way my life goes. Things occur to me and I go with it. I’ve been pretty much that way since the time I was in sixth grade in elementary school or my first year of junior high.”
  • what has been your connection with baseball since you retired?
  • Shinjo: “None. I almost didn’t watch at all.”
  • “Now I watch and I see young players talking about ‘this era, this era.’ But what I see is people using ‘this era’ as something they can run escape to. What I mean is that for me, for 16 years, for good or bad, I never understood ‘my era,’ just pounded away trying to be my own self without concern about what era I was in.”
  • -what changed with you wanting to try out?
  • Shinjo: “With the tryout, of course I wanted to become a player again, but at the very last it was this here, now. I love baseball. I really was serious about the tryout and gave it 100 percent, and I like that it became an event. But at the end, with everyone watching, I thought that if I were a manager next year, then the fans would watch me then and that would be the best.”
  • -what’s a Japan pro baseball championship?
  • Shinjo: “I don’t have any image at all. Because of the coronavirus, fans couldn’t come, so the image was a little bleak. But by the time I come back the coronavirus will be over and the ballparks will be full. I think that’s my fate.”
  • -regarding you as the big boss, what do you want to change about the Fighters? What would you change about your tone?
  • Shinjo: “First, change my appearance maybe?”
  • “It’s about feeling. When players enter the world of pro baseball, they’re all at the same level. It’s not about mental health problems, but I think there were coaches and managers who stunted players’ mental growth. But I think I have the skill to get a lot out of players’ mental sides.”
  • “Also, if on the team there are three pitchers, and four position players who I can turn into celebrities, that would be a fun team. Their celebrity would then be known throughout Japan, and people would all be talking about that team.”
  • “I’m the manager and the way I look at the new players from the start is that none of them are going to be regulars. The first-, second-, third-year players bust their butts in camp. It’s from there. Our first-round draft pick could be our Opening Day starter, but that will not be decided well ahead of time. That’s what I’d like to say.”
To Kawamura
  • -what is the idea behind having Atsunori Inaba as GM and manager Shinjo?
  • Kawamura: “They are from the same generation, they played together in the same outfield, in center and right, they played, they made eye contact. Now, as the man in charge of results on the field and the man in charge of team building, I hope they’ll make eye contact again and keep that.”
To Shinjo again
  • -You’re back in Hokkaido.
  • Shinjo: “I have a lot of places that I’ve called home. Hokkaido is a good place to live. It’s cold and I like the cold. The food is delicious. Now I need to look for a home, and once I find a good one that will be the greatest.”

-you’re very aggressive on social media. What about the fans, are you going to continue spouting things to them?

Shinjo: “I’ve been talking with the team about that and I’ve proposed ideas, and they are now making rules. In this age we live in, SNS is so important. It would be great if, during the game, I could go live on Instagram (looks at Kawamura). I’ll let you know how that works out.” (giggles)

Shinjo wants to add…

“I’ll be working in a tag team with Atsu-chan (Inaba), but on top of that, (Hiroshi) Yoshimura the former GM, his help and strength are so important. If he doesn’t give me his help, I don’t want to do this. I’m here because of GM Yoshimura’s recommendation. So going forward, if I don’t understand something, I’ll ask Yoshimura, and we’ll talk and we’ll argue as I work with GM Inaba. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be tough.”

Open questions

The first set comes from this boot-licking Yomiuri Television announcer who seems to be climaxing with Shinjo’s every expression. He starts by urging the media in attendance to applaud the owner, top executive and Shinjo, which they do, He asks Shinjo about what he’d like to bring to the team.

Shinjo: “I don’t want to make fun of other teams, and I don’t want to say this, but I want to descend to the field from the ceiling! Not just me, I want the players to do it with me. If they feel they want to, they should tell me.”

-wow another descent! (As a player, Shinjo once arrived on the field by being lowered from a catwalk near Sapporo Dome’s ceiling)

-I know the player-manager thing was a joke, but don’t you want to at some point call yourself into the game as a pinch-hitter?

Shinjo: “Honestly, this past year as I studied baseball, I got into playing shape, and there’s still a chance to try out. I’m thinking about that. I still have a thought as a manager seeing a player, ‘Oh that’s a guy I want to give a chance to.'”

-oh my.

-Isn’t your collar too small?

Shinjo: “I think I went too small. I wanted to go larger.”

Kiss ass announcer: Aren’t you going to clap? (he asks the other members of the media–which brings a smattering of applause)

Closer to normal questions…

  • -What do you want to eat now that you’re back in Hokkaido?
  • Shinjo: “Sumire ramen. And Marseille butter, and my favorite clock tower butter ramen. I want to eat ramen.”
  • -(Tsutomu) Iwamoto said on Youtube he wants to be a pitching coach, or pitching manager.
  • Shinjo: “Pitching manager? Really, I want to be the center of attention. Is it OK to do everything by myself without a coaching staff? I really stand out. Sorry Gan-chan (Iwamoto).”

  • Shinjo:
    • -What is the point you wanted to make with today’s fashion?
    • Shinjo: “Fashion point? As Tsuyoshi Shinjo, I am fashion. I don’t give it much thought.”
    • -what were you thinking this morning?
    • Shinjo: “This morning I got up, had some bread and my coffee, and went over to the new ballpark. When my car got to the new ballpark, I got goosebumps. I felt so much envy toward the athletes who will get to play there. I’ve seen all kinds of ballparks all over America. This is a ballpark that is going to be a hot topic around the world. The manager’s office is a little small I thought, but going forward as I give my input I’d hope it gets bigger. It’s everything to motivate players, a weight room, a sauna, everything. That’s what I did.”
    • -your number?
    • Shinjo: “For a cool image, I think No. 1 is best. I want to wear No. 1, but I also think that is is for players, to aspire to be stars to be No. 1, but until those kids come along, I’ll be the first No. 1! (raises his hand). I’ll take it. I’ll stand out. Thank you!”
    • Big boss Shinjo-san, thank you for your achieving your dream. What are your dreams? How have they changed?
    • Shinjo: “Once I achieved five or six of my dreams, I got tired of all that. Enjoying your life and letting that add up day after day is the dream I’m achieving now. I don’t have one really.”
    • “I want to have the strongest team in the world. That’s not a dream, but a really high target. I want Nippon Ham and Hokkaido to go together and to live here and put as many smiles on peoples’ faces as possible.”
    • -Big boss Shinjo, you said you want to change baseball? What parts?
    • Shinjo: “First, is the area of tactics. The idea of how to score runs without getting hits is fascinating. Does this really exist? I’m thinking how I would start this and other teams would emulate us. To do this, the players will have to grasp my thinking. So as soon as possible I want to meet the players and talk to them. I enjoy thinking about it. Then translating those things I thought of into action, and when it succeeds the joy in that will be beyond words. That’s one way to change pro baseball.”
    • -You’re a new manager. Did you learn anything from the late (Hall of Fmae manager Katsuya Nomura?
    • Shinjo: “Honestly, I almost never spoke about baseball with manager Nomura. With manager Nomura, the conversation was generally personal: (In Nomura’s gravelly voice) ‘Shinjo, what do you long for?’ ‘Versace.’ (Nomura voice) ‘What’s Versace?'”
    • “We had these kinds of chats a lot. But in meetings, and not just with Nomura-san but the manager when I joined the Tigers Nakamura, and at the end all the other managers, I took ideas from them. But in the end, you know, I prioritized my own personality, my own ideas and then added things I learned from the managers, and from Yoshimura-san, who I mentioned before, and I want to mix that all.”
    • -Congratulations big boss Shinjo! Big boss, when you were playing you had these special sayings during your time with the Fighters. Now you are not in the majors or the CL but the Pacific League. Now that you are the big boss, have you thought of any sayings?
    • Shinjo: “Now it’s not the CL, not the majors, not the PL. It’s Tsuyoshi Shinjo. That’s all I could think of it. That’s too hard. A saying is something that springs from natural conversation, it’s not something you plan in advance, so please be alert for what’s said.”
    • -Big boss, you know what it’s like to live as a baseball player. Do you have anything to say to the players?
    • Shinjo: “Of course. Your humanity is essential. Never speak ill of others. Always be courteous. I may look different, but when I was with the Tigers, or even as a boy, how to maintain relationships with others above and below you are what I learned from my parents.”
    • “Now that I’ve been allowed to be in this position, I want to tell them that how they live their private lives will help or hurt them. I want them to learn that. As for how to play, they are really all very skilled.”
    • “The human side is so important. I remember a batting coach instructing Hichori (former Fighters teammate Hichori Morimoto), ‘Oh Hichori do it like this.’ And Hichori said, ‘What do you mean? You do it then!’ I told him, ‘Hichori you can’t talk like that. Eventually, he changed, improved as a human being, took care in his private life, became a regular, earning 100 million yen a year. He became such a quality individual.”
    • -what about your relationship with GM Inaba?
    • Shinjo: “I think on most teams, the GM and the manager do not get along. This team is different. When I saw Atsu-chan I said, ‘You’re not just the GM, please be the GM and left-handed-hitting batting coach! I’ll be the manager and outfield defense coach.’ I said it in that spirit. Nippon Ham will be a new team, we’ll try anything.”
    • -what do you want to say to the players?
    • Shinjo: “Everyone will begin at the same starting line. Before camp begins, I’ll already have in mind who the starters are going to be. During the offseason, I want them to think about issues to address, update themselves for when they get to camp, to that start line. It will be fun. I hope you enjoy.”

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