When one hears the name “Goro Shigeno” it can be virtually guaranteed that no less than a thousand images begin to instantly flash through that person’s mind. A tall, imposing man who unstoppable dominates his opponent from his commanding perch on the pitcher’s mound with his talent, work ethic, and undying spirit. All of which came together for a decade and a half to form the youth pitcher who’d represented all the future Japanese baseball stars of his generation in interviews with countless magazines, TV shows, and radio stations in both Japan and America.
What most people, especially those who knew him personally, never thought about when they heard his name was school, at least not without it somehow being connected to sports. Even then, these same people would most certainly not think of college, due to the combination of him having jumped ship to play in America when he was 18 and his academic record. Yet, here he was, on a Saturday afternoon, dressed in a black suit and necktie with black slacks, looking more like a weary salary man than a baseball player, sitting in the waiting room that led to the office of the President of the University of Tokyo. A single thought, repeatedly echoing in his head.
‘How did I get here?’ as he nervously tapped his foot and left, his gaze squarely focused on the floor in front of him, placing him on edge in a way he hadn’t experienced since he asked his darling wife to marry him.
“Come on Goro” his wife, Kaoru, had said when she’d first learned of the offer, several days after his agent had forwarded it to his personal email. Her words came as she stood over the stove of their house cooking the two of them a late breakfast, much to Goro’s delight.
“The least you could do is respond to the offer”
“But why ?” he’d countered, as Kaoru had moved from where she stood to the table where he sat, two beautiful dishes of food in her hands. The news on the position in question had come only about a week after he’d returned from having completed his second year on a two-year-long contract with the SSG Landers. Under normal circumstances he probably would have seen her point, it was never wise to leave such an offer without a response, but his agent had been certain that, given his solid play over the course of the previous two seasons, relations with the general manager of the Landers was more than friendly. Unless something massive came up, such as another veteran player demanding more money or they sign another overseas player, there was no fathomable reason why they shouldn’t at least extend him an offer to play a few more years.
“The Landers have made it clear that they intend to offer something and even if that falls through, there are two offers from the CPBL” he continued, looking Kaoru in the eyes as he did so. His question was initially met with silence before she tilted her head upwards slightly to look past him to the staircase that led to the second floor of their house, where Izumi and Daigo were still asleep. Then whispered.
“Well, it would be nice to have around a bit more” her barely audible words, sending Goro’s gaze in the same direction. As much as Goro may not have wanted to admit it, deep down he knew Kaoru was at least partially right. There had been multiple points during the season in Korea when he’d returned to his hotel, looked at his phone, and been greeted by a photo of his smiling family before his mind began to wonder. Began to note how old Izumi and Daigo were, began to remember all the things he’d gone through at their age, remembered all the things his father hadn’t been able to do with him because of his baseball career, how unstable it all was. Sure they had Kaoru and didn't have to be even half as independent and self-reliant as he was at that age, but he still knew that his two kids would keep growing and that if he wasn’t careful he’d miss out on being their dad. It was part of the reason that every time he went looking for contracts, he always told his agent to put a special priority on deals from Japanese teams.
“Daigo and Izumi are getting older, and as much as they love the fact that they can see you on TV, I can just tell that they also want you to be their dad” Kaoru added, her words echoing in Goro’s head as he continued to stare at the staircase, before letting out a compromised sigh.
“Okay, I’ll send them a reply and try to see what details they’re willing to say” earning him a smile from Kaoru.
“Thank you, besides if this goes well who knows, you may get hired for something relating to high school baseball ”, coming just before the sound of a weary yawn came from upstairs.
“Shigeno-san?” a gentle voice called, pulling the young man from his memories and back to the present situation.
“Yes?” being the startled words to that, he could manage to help fall out of his mouth as he looked from where he sat to see a middle-aged man dressed in a similarly colored suit and tie.
“The President will see you now” the man explained, but not before looking Goro up and down with what seemed to be a glint of displeasure in his eyes.
“Oh, yes, thank you” were the only words that Goro could say, well at least the only ones that wouldn’t give away the fact he noticed the man’s displeasure, before rising from his seat, turning, and marching into the aforementioned presidential office. His jerky, stiff motions, him look like an awkward youth on one of the underdog teams that somehow managed to make it to the Koshien in any given year. His anxiety wasn’t helped when he heard the authoritative “click” of the door being shut behind him. Though it was eased when he caught sight of the president in question, a man who appeared to be in his early sixties and wore the formal black jacket and slacks that one would expect, the only noteworthy thing being his gray framed glasses and black bow-tie.
“Good morning, Shigeno-san” the man stated, a warm smile coming over his face.
“Good morning sir” Goro replied, making sure to remember what he and Kaoru had gone over and practiced, making sure to perform a gracious, yet subtle, bow that he was sure most people would regard as respectful. Finishing his bow just in time to see the man make a gesture towards one of the chairs which sat in front of his desk, an offer that Goro duly took, while the other man proceeded to sit on the small couch which was off to the side of the room. Meaning that while he was still in the room, and very much in the back of Goro’s mind, he was not in a position that would allow him to easily interfere in the oncoming conversation.
“You know Shigeno-san, I must truly say that it’s an honor to have you applying for this position, we were rather surprised that you answered the inquiry we sent to your agent”, the old man stated, his words catching the young man off guard.
“Oh…thank you” he stammered, truly unsure whether the man meant the statement to be one of relief, joy, congratulations, or an insult.
“Don’t be offended, Shigeno-san” the other man added, causing Goro to turn in his seat to face him.
“We more so sent the offer towards you to strengthen our communications with other candidates, after all if a former player of your caliber was a possible candidate for the position, surely others would look our way” he clarified, his words earning him an almost jovial chuckle from the president.
“Yes, you wouldn’t believe the looks on the faces of our administrative staff when they heard that you had actually agreed to apply for the position,”.
“Well, when you get an offer to coach at such a young age, it usually means that you must have some potential,” Goro answered, hoping that his words would prove to be a sufficient mix of humility and honesty.
“Even the great Suzuki Ichiro had to play for nearly three decades to get an offer to coach high school baseball, I’d be crazy not to at least look at your offer” he added, his words causing the smile on the president’s face to go from being jovial to impressed.
“Well then, if that’s the way you feel Shigeno-san, let’s get right down to business” came as the man snapped his fingers and gestured, footsteps audibly coming from behind him, before a stack of papers was set on the desk before him. The sight and sound, of the papers hitting the desk caused Goro to almost emotionlessly shift his gaze down to the papers that now lay before him.
‘Ah, power move’ running through his mind, something that he’d gotten personal experience dealing with during his decade and a half of playing, and negotiating, with teams.
“On behalf of the University of Tokyo, I would like to extend to you the offer of being the next head coach of our baseball program” the man stated rather matter-of-factly, causing Goro to look from the papers in surprise.
“I’m sorry sir, but I seem to have misunderstood the nature of my visit, I thought I was being offered a position as an assistant coach, particularly on who specializes in pitching or batting, not of a whole program” he replied, glancing up towards the assistant to see if there had been some sort of mistake.
“Under normal circumstances, and at other schools that would most certainly be the case, however, given that our current coach announced that he would step down following the spring league season we needed to find a suitable replacement as soon as possible” the man assured, before the president cut in.
“We aren’t under any delusions of current, or possible, grandeur, our sole desire is to find someone who can create a competitive program that can at least win a few matches ever season”, the president clarified, his words coming as his assistant reached into his breast pocket and offered a pen to Goro.
“So, are you interested?”, the words sitting in the back of Goro’s mind for a few moments before he took the man’s pen and signed the paper.
Goro begins his search for a coaching staff my approaching a friend.
Japan is, and always has been, a country of immense beauty that is accompanied by unfortunate contradictions. It’s a country's ideals, of dedication to duty, and devotion to unrelenting perfection regardless of whether it’s attainable. In the arts this means that artists, writers, mangakas, actors, filmmakers, and musicians are expected to strive to insert every fiber of their being in every single piece of art they ever create. For athletes, it means that they must have the unquestionable, and unquenchable, desire to practice from dawn until dusk, year round, regardless of personal injury or personal sacrifice.
But while the works produced by this work ethic are noble and the individuals who succeed in this system honorable, they often ignore those who fail to reach the upper level, or any level, of their fields. Forcing them to try to find a living doing something else.
One of the people who could testify to the benefits, as well as the costs, of this system was one of the many prides of Kaido Academy and field general of Samurai Japan, Sato Toshiya. A man who was also known nationally as the full time rival and occasional teammate of the famous pitcher Shigeno Goro. However, as the 30-year-old Sato sat in the small restaurants he and his friend had agreed to meet at, the chief thing on his mind wasn’t rivalry but friendship, more specifically how the friend who had specifically asked the current catcher on the Yokohama Marine Stars to be there at 5:45 was late.
“Why am I not surprised?” he muttered, before taking a small sip of his soda.
“Even when we were teammates, Goro wasn’t exactly known for being on time”, though as much as he wanted to leave his friend's tardiness it was a known fact that Goro never missed a practice or a signing period. An odd detail which seemed to keep with the fact that nothing, except his family that is, could possibly take Goro’s mind off of baseball.
‘He’d be more than willing to play it for free’ Toshiya thought, his gaze going over towards the restaurant’s small TV set which was playing a game between the Orix Buffaloes and the Softbank Hawks. A little, alright large, part of him was happy that his friend had elected to call him on his day off in between home series so that he would have time to do something other than having to choose between family matters and how dismal the season had been for his team so far. Both thoughts bitterly made it onto his mind so that he was more than relieved when a familiar, friendly, voice called out.
“Hey, Sato” and he looked up to catch sight of Goro coming into the restaurant, an excited grin on his face as he came towards the seated catcher.
“Nice to see you could get some time off” came as he reached Sato, sat down, and picked up one of the menus on the table.
“Thanks for reaching out so that I could have the break”, being the only quick retort that Toshiya could think of as his friend began to browse through the menu.
“How was Korea?”
“Great, the baseball in the KBO really was as good as they say”, coming immediately from Goro as he seemed to forget that he was in the midst of looking over the menu moments ago. His use of the past tense in his answer, taking Toshiya aback slightly.
‘Maybe he wasn’t able to get a contract extension’, being the only reason that he could think of. Though the idea seemed to be rather absurd, even though Goro’s team had been incredibly bad during both of the years he’d been signed onto the team he hadn’t played with anything less than 100% of his usual effort. Somehow managing to have the second-best ERA in the league and be in the top 10 in terms of wins by a pitcher despite being on a team that finished dead last.
“I mean, it’s not as good as baseball here or in America, but it’s still top-notch” Goro continued, not seeming to take any note of the concern that had flashed across Toshiya’s face.
“It doesn’t help that my team was never able to get out of the basement the whole year, but that’s something you’d know, right, Sato”.
The last comment causing a small tick to appear on the aforementioned catcher’s face, which he was only able to mask by taking a sip from his glass. His thoughts most certainly not going to his team’s abysmal record and 2nd worst place status in the Central League. A Status which had been responsible for the fact that Toshiya’s coach was willing to let his catcher off the usual training schedule and training regimen his team had to go through.
“Anyway, what did you want to talk about?” he asked, attempting to change the subject as his slightly annoyed tone did not seem to register with Goro in any capacity. Earning him an ill timed, yet well-intentioned, chuckle from his friend.
“Right, right, you didn’t come here to just gossip about my time in Korea” Goro began, his jovial tone suddenly taking a level of seriousness that he hadn’t seen in a while.
“No Toshiya, I’ve got a completely different question for you” coming as he leaned forwards and the previously placid atmosphere between them melted away at the sound of Goro’s challenge.
“Alright then, fire away”, being the witty retort, really the only retort, that Toshiya could manage to muster; his words earning him a particularly confident grin from Goro.
“How would you feel about becoming a baseball coach?”
For a few seconds the question hung in the air; not exactly, or really at all, like a bad smell, but more like one which was severely underwhelming given what had preceded it. As Toshiya waived patiently for some sort of follow up to Goro’s question, a follow-up which never came.
‘Is that his whole question? Or is this a joke that I’m not getting?’
“Well?” Goro asked, breaking the silence that had fallen between them, confirming to Toshiya that there was truly nothing else in the question.
“How would you feel able to become a baseball coach, a college coach to be exact” Goro clarified, as if the specification of what level Toshiya would be coaching at would make that much of a difference. It wasn’t as though Toshiya had anything against college baseball, even the worst college teams could beat most of the best high school teams in Japan and dozens of people were drafted from the college ranks by Nippon Professional Baseball teams every year. It was just that it got significantly less coverage than high school baseball. Almost everyone in Japan, regardless of whether they like baseball or not, knew and spoke about the Koshien. By contrast, significantly fewer people knew, and fewer still spoke, about the All Japan University Baseball Championship or the Meiji Jingu tournament that the Tokyo Big 6 League hosted every year.
“I was just thinking-” Goro began, seeming to try and take advantage to clarify his question, only leaving himself open to a quip from his childhood friend.
“Now, that’s a dangerous thing”
“I was just wondering because I heard about a head coaching position open up, but the catch is that I’d have to have a pitching, batting, and position coach prepared before I applied,” Goro continued, smiling as he did so. Truth be told, this wasn’t the first time that Toshiya had gently slid the proposition of coaching, nor was it the first time he’d thought about it on his own. The first opportunities had presented themselves when he’d returned from his 5-year stint in America,, and they’d intensified slightly after his participation on the World Cup team. With the reasons listed being all the same.
“You’re so good at coaching pitchers and fielders”
“You’d be good at it”
“You’ve got the heart of a teacher”
“It’s much more stable than being a player”
But he hadn’t taken any offer seriously, after all he was still young then, he was married, he had a son, he was happy, and he’d just signed onto a team that seemed destined to win the Japan Series in the next few years. But that was five years ago, things were different now, his family life was less stable, the Marine Stars seemed as though they were about to begin a hard rebuild, and it was a known fact that they couldn’t do that if they continued to carry his contract. Maybe it was time to move on.
“I’ll think about it” he began, raising his hand to quiet his friend before clarifying his answer.
“My agent and I are both looking to avoid any trades until my contract runs out in a few seasons, so that I can stay in Yokohama and take care of Hikaru, if things don’t work out count me in”, he added, knowing in the back of his mind that he might as well have said yes. After all, if his manager really wanted to keep him close, he wouldn’t have let him leave practice early to meet with Goro.
“Great!” Goto exclaimed, his hands going up in celebration, while his cry attracted the attention of the other patrons in the restaurant.
“It’s all done”
“What’s all done?” Toshiya couldn’t help but ask.
“You need two more coaches, and you haven’t even secured one”
“Well, they said I need to give a list of pitching, fielding, and hitting candidates for coaches, and now I’ve got both,” Goro answered, much to Toshiya’s surprise.
“You mean you plan to be both a head coach and a pitching coach?”
“Of course”, his friend answered, seemingly hurt by the question.
“Well it’s just that’s a lot of work” Toshiya began, trying to find a way to politely spell out his criticisms in a way which wouldn’t cause Goro to become even more determined in his quest to fill out two positions on the coaching staff.
“And you’re sort of…single-minded, I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to take on both of those duties”, his gentle description causing Goro to pause briefly and then relent.
“Ah, you’re right”
‘First time I’ve ever heard you say that’
“But whose going to want to become a pitching coach on such short notice?” he asked, his
question receiving little more than a shrug of Toshiya’s shoulders.
“Who knows, you might find someone where you’re not looking” being all he could, and frankly cared, to say before sliding Goro his menu.
Roughly one week later, but an emotional eternity, Goro found himself standing inside the office of the University of Tokyo’s Athletic Administration building. His formal black tie, white dress shirt, suit jacket, and pants having been exchanged for a slightly more casual orange shirt and blue University of Tokyo baseball jacket, though he still wore a pair of black slacks. With his gaze aimed at the old, not quite elderly, figure who sat in front of him, or more specifically the white stats' sheet that the figure held in his hands.
“Excuse me” Goro coughed, his words slightly more controlled than when he normally ran into surprises, earning him the old man’s attention.
“But who are you?”
“Oh, me? I’m your predecessor” the old man replied, a smile coming across his face as he put the stat sheet away, in one of the drawers of his desk.
“I was just running over a few things and wanted to meet you before you took over here”
“Oh, thank you, but you shouldn't…you know…” Goro trailed off, unsure of how exactly to proceed. Making him silently thank when the old man seemed to pick up where Goro left off.
“Be shipped off already?” coming moments before, the man left out a heart laugh, not too unfamiliar from that of the university’s president. A laugh that, thankfully, seemed to ease the tension that had begun to emerge from the moment that Goro entered the office and found this rather unexpected site awaiting him.
“My, my, you really are a spring chicken from the NPB” the older man chuckled, almost coughing as he did so, the man’s cheery nature making Goro fairly sure that he didn’t intend it to be an insult.
“That may be how it works in the pros, and maybe at some extremely competitive high schools, but at this level the university has to wait until the end of the academic year before getting rid of you, that is unless you break the law”, the old man’s addition seeming to come as he cast a clever smile.
“So I hope you’d be willing to let an old man reminisce on his accomplishments, and give you a few tips before he goes”, the latter words coming as the man pulled out a stack of papers, this time from a different drawer and placed them on the desk. Each group of stapled papers containing a picture of a man dressed in a baseball uniform in the top right-hand corner, with several paragraphs of text being placed right beside them.
“Thank you sir, but I don’t-” Goro began, only to be cut off when the old man gave an authoritative slap to the stack.
“These are profiles that I compiled on each of the coaches in the Tokyo Big 6 League” the man began, seeming to ignore Goro’s initial rejection.
“Some of them are, or have become, friends and gave me this information willingly in the spirit of the game, while others needed a bit of convincing; but all were willing to contribute” the man’s words, and actions, leaving Goro in no doubt that while the old coach was undoubtedly nice, or well-intentioned, he was still a head coach . A head coach who was willing, or to be more accurate insisting, that he help introduce Goro into this new environment; making Goro realize one thing.
‘Saying no would be stupid’
“Well sir, thank you for working to give men an advan-” he began, bowing slightly, before being cut off by the sound of the man chuckling and snapping his head up.
“Son, let me be frank, I like you and think you’re a good kid and may be a good coach; but this is the Tokyo Big 6 League,” he began, leaning forwards and clasping his hands as he did so.
“I’m giving you a survival kit”, the words instantly catching Goro’s attention.
‘What have I gotten myself into?’
“Now, I organized the reports on these coaches in descending order based on their wins and losses, but-” the man continued, only to be cut off by the sound of the office’s door opening and someone stepping in.
“Coach Inoue, I-” coming from a young, feminine, voice who stopped at the moment she realized that the single man that she was planning on speaking two had a guest. Her hesitation prompting Goro to turn around and catch sight of a fair skinned, brown eyed, brown haired, and….well-endowed young woman standing in front of him. While the woman looked to be, somehow, younger than Goro, as she didn’t look to be past her mid-twenties, Goro could instantly tell from her stance, dress, and the look in her eyes that she was more than familiar with this building.
“Oh, Momoe-san, you’re early” Coach Inoue cut in, his words earning him a nod from the startled young woman. Barely seeming to take notice of either Goro or the young woman’s surprise as he stood up and seamlessly took the papers she had in her hand.
“Are these the fitness and scouting reports I asked for?” receiving only a nod from the Momoe as Coach Inoue began to look through them.
“In case you’re wondering Momoe-san, this young man is Shigeno Goro, my new replacement, he’d be starting here in a few weeks”
“Nice to meet you, Shigeno-san, '' Momoe replied, bowing slightly before adding.
“I watched many of your games on TV, I hope we will be able to work well together” before she turned and silently stepped out of the office.
“In case you’re wondering she was my most recent hire to help with the coaching staff, we took her on last year” Coach Inoue added, the words seeming to almost come out of the side of his mouth as he flipped through the aforementioned stack of papers before turning and gesturing towards the two filing cabinets in the room which Goro assumed were filled with similar reports.
“This is all here handiwork, even on the administration’s limited budget, needless to say it was one of my better decisions, she made out pitching better”
“Didn't the starters have a combined ERA of 8.09?” Goro asked, as he glanced down at the papers Coach Inoue held, his question being met with a simple shrug.
“It was 13.95 the year before she arrived, that’s still a noticeable improvement” the man countered, flipping through the report that had been just delivered and then handing it to Goro.
“She was one of my best hires, hopefully she’ll be one of your best too”.
“I take it that your meeting with Coach Inoue went well?” the president asked, his relaxed tone coming as he sat reading through a stack of papers. Under normal circumstances, the president wouldn’t have cared heads or tails about whether the employees of the school’s athletic department were getting along well as long as it didn’t interrupt normal day-to-day functions, something that Goro could already attest to. However, unbeknownst to Goro, it had been his idea to arrange a meeting between the two men, a sort of meeting of minds to exchange important information on how to run a department like that of the University of Tokyo, passing information on from one generation to the next. Needless to say, at least as far as Goro was concerned, it had worked extremely well.
“Yes, very much, it was a valuable experience” he answered, earning him a nod from the man before mentally adding.
‘Specifically as to how much you didn’t tell me’
“That’s good, I’d recommend trying to shadow him as much as you can and follow his advice with players,” the president replied before signing the paper that he was reading. The break in the conversation allowed Goro to swallow, think for a moment, and then decide to press forward with a question that had been on his mind for at least an hour.
“Though I was wondering about that coaching assistant that Coach Inoue hired this year, I believe her name was Momoe Maria” he began, his inquiry earning him a concerned look from the man.
“If she’s giving you trouble there is no need to worry, she’s currently on a temporary contract, she’ll be gone by the time you officially take over”
“Well, that would be a shave, because Coach Inoue showed me scouting reports that she’d compiled on the freshman who came in this year” Goro immediately countered.
“While I don’t know what it all means, she clearly has talent and knows what she’s doing”, he continued, reaching into his jacket and withdrawing a few of the papers she’d given him.
“I was wondering about her to see when I could approach her to be the head pitching coach next year”
“But she’s so young” the president countered, his objection flying out of his mouth almost before Goro had a chance to finish his own suggestion. In the few weeks since Goro had begun to ease his way into the school’s athletic program, the president had barely shown much emotion, or frankly interest, in the minute details of Goro’s plans for taking over. Regardless of what Goro asked or what subject he approached, the man had always either sounded as cool as cucumber, or told Goro to speak to Coach Inoue about it, which was why Goro was slightly caught off guard by his exclamation.
“Wouldn’t you want someone more experienced in the position? I’m fairly certain there must be someone you know, or in the high school baseball world, who would be better”, coming almost with a sense of desperation from the man.
“Maybe there is someone better, maybe I know them” Goro began, relenting slightly before walking up to the man’s desk, and leaning over so that the two of them were nearly face to face.
“Bur right now, I can’t think of them, and as far as I’m concerned she’s a woman I’ll bet on, that’s my power, and responsibility, as the head coach, and I’m willing to use it”.
It's Jackie. Sorry for this late post, school has been kicking my butt for the past few weeks. However, I hope that this chapter being extra-long will be more than able to make up for me missing my usual update last week. Also, I just want to give a heads up that there will only be one more recruiting chapter after this before I do the time skip that will get us to the Spring of the first full year of Goro, Maria, and Toshiya's leadership of the team. Thanks for hanging with me for this long, I hope you enjoy it.
For all its lack of widespread publicity in the Western world, rural Japan might just perhaps universally be one of the most beautiful parts of the country. A beautiful place of rolling hills, tree-covered mountains, roads that were both simple and well kept, open fields, and the quiet shops which were in the villages and towns that dotted the countryside. The main, and in some extreme cases only, connection for these small towns to the rest of Japan being its tiny railway station. One of which was the tiny sized Akagi Station which stood in the center of the suburban residential area of Ina, in Nagano prefecture. A station where a young, brown-haired woman stood dressed in a rather informal aqua tracksuit and pair of brown jeans. With a small duffle bag slung over her shoulder and a phone in her hands which she was studying with a noticeable level of confusion.
“When they said that the train was going to Ina, I assumed that all the lines went to through the town, not zig-zagging through it” she muttered, glancing up from the map and looking around at the endless expanse of houses before her gaze went back to her phone’s screen and began studying it again.
‘I knew it was weird that Goro wanted me to check out a pitcher that he was openly fawning over’
“Hello miss” an elderly voice called from Maria’s right, causing her to turn and catch sight of an elderly woman who was pushing a small grocery basket.
“Is something wrong?”, her words causing Maria to feel a wave of relief wash over her.
‘That’s at least one thing to love about these towns, the locals never cease to want to help you’
“You could say that”, being Maria’s reply, hoping deep down that the old woman was as well versed with Google Maps as she was with the local area.
“I’m a baseball scout and I’m looking for the local high school-” she began, widening the search radius on the google map so that it would be easier for her to use it, only to be cut off by the woman raising her arm and proudly declaring.
“It will be that way”, sending her attention over in the general direction and faintly catching sight of a large, immaculately kept building off in the distance. One which looked to be the farthest thing from the public school that she was looking for.
“I’m sorry obaasan, but I’m looking for a public school, one named Ina High School”, earning her a raised eyebrow from the woman.
“There’s no public school in Ina, only a private high school, of course it’s only private in the sense it prioritizes students in the local area and is of high academic standing,” instantly causing a light to go off in Maria’s head as the old lady continued.
“But if you’re a baseball scout you should go to Ina High School, a wonderful young submarine pitcher, Sawamura, something or other”, causing Maria’s smile to turn into a massive grin and turned in the direction the old woman had pointed.
“He really was a powerful pitcher, if only he had a little-”
“Thank you obaasan!” being her shout as she began to quickly jog in the way that the old lady had pointed.
“You’ve been a real help”, echoing as she moved further away.
While Maria stumbled to find her person of interest, three hours, and 256 kilometers away, another member of the recently united trio was making his journey to interview another prospect. However, thanks to boasting a slightly better, or to be more accurate luckier, experience with Google Maps, Goro Shigeno found himself standing outside of the fence that separated himself from Saitama Industrial Academy’s baseball team. A pair of binoculars pressed up against his face with a several page thick prospect report clutched in his free hand.
“Where is he? Where is he?” coming from him in a series of whispers he scanned the field, looking over to where most of the team’s, or at least his high school team’s, third years usually gathered after their final summer. His gaze repeatedly traversed the large baseball field, looking for the black-haired, middle-height boy who was the reason that he’d come here in the first place. Finally landing on him in one of the more unusual places. Behind the plate, in the heat of practice, conducting things as though he hadn’t just finished his last possible chance to capture, or at least go to, the Koshien catching Goro’s attention. Well, that, along with the powerful charisma in his commands and the movements that he managed to orchestrate on the field.
‘That’s it, that’s the type-’
“Excuse me sir?” a voice called, snapping Gro out of his thoughts and causing him to turn his left before being greeted by the sight of a man dressed in a suit and tie.
“Can I help you?”
“Uh, yes” Goro answered, at once putting his binoculars away.
“I’m here for an appointment”
“If that’s the case, then I’m fairly sure you’ll need to be admitted through the front office”, the man’s response causing Goro to sweat drop and begin scratching the back of his head.
“I meant with the catcher whose conducting practice” he clarified, gesturing to the field and sending the man’s gaze that way.
“Oh, him, well if that’s the case then you stay as long as you don’t interfere with anything” the man relented, seeming to realize that it would be more a hassle to move Goro than just let him be, before glancing down at his watch.
‘That’s all I’ll need’ Goro thought, before proceeding to turn his attention back to the practice field. His sole wish being that the practice would end sooner so that he could manage to make his pitch to the boy sooner. Well, that and the possibility that Abe wouldn’t be the type of third year to settle for ending his baseball career after the end of high school just because he wasn’t selected in the NPB’s fall draft. Of course, deep down, Goro knew that such an attitude wasn’t likely to be one adopted by the boy.
‘After all, if he was ready to stop playing, he wouldn’t be practicing now’
Most people could agree that the four words that could best describe Shigeno Goro and Momoe maria were passion, determination, and highly energetic, classic pitcher’s personalities. The two of them could almost guarantee that they would pull you towards them with these qualities, or that these same qualities might drive you away. However, for one Sato Toshiya the best description was that he was calm, observant, and confident. Not in a way that made him appear smug or overconfident, but in a way which made him reliable and friendly; and as he sat in a large, single story rural house, in front of a kneeling table with a wired, orange hair boy in front of him, he was happy that he was the way he was. For the young boy was, at this current moment, seeming to be on the brink of passing out from what seemed to be sheer surprise as he swayed back and forth despite sitting down.
‘He looks like he’s going to be sick’
“Here you go Sato-san” a friendly, feminine voice called before a middle-aged woman with similarly colored hair entered the room with a small tray that held three steaming cups. Ultimately playing each cup of team in front of each spot at the table before sitting down beside the boy.
“Thank you Mihashi-kun” he replied, throwing a glance over towards the young boy as he did so.
“If you don't mind me asking, is your son alright?”, the mere question causing the boy to sit straight up as though he’d been hit by a bolt of lightning and began to violently shake his head in negation.
“N-N-No, I’m f-f-fine” the boy nervously answered, the sudden burst of energy in the boy’s actions causing Toshiya to flinch backwards slightly, a gesture that the boy noticed.
“I’m sorry Sato-san, Ren-Ren just gets a little nervous,” Mrs. Mihashi added, seeming to pay little heed to the boy’s antics.
‘If this is a little nervous, I don’t want to see him when he actually has something to be nervous about’
“Well then,” Toshiya began trying to find a way to smoothly transition the conversation from one topic to another.
“Mihashi-kun, as I mentioned before, my name is Sato Toshiya, and I'm soon to be assistant coach for the University of Tokyo baseball” he began, flashing the logo of his bag as he did so.
“The Tokyo Big 6 League?” earning the young woman an affirmative nod from Toshiya, before he added.
“If you’ve heard of the Tokyo Big 6 League then I assume that you know why I’m here”
“P-P-Partially” the boy, Ren, cut in, his demeanor having seemed to calm down, given the fact his shaking had decreased slightly. The boy’s brief stint of confidence at once vaporized as he averted his gaze from Toshiya’s and instead looked at the table before him.
“Though I can’t see why you’d want me, I’m not that good”
“Honestly, I’d disagree Mihashi-san” Toshiya countered, his words causing the boy to snap his gaze upwards just as Toshiya withdrew the stat sheet Maria had supported him and placed the sheet on the table.
“While your pitching may not be fast or flashy, it’s still very effective and seems to have improved greatly between your first and third year”, his mind running over the statistical sheet as the boy gingerly reached forward to examine it. Flipping through the stack of papers as though he expected Toshiya to suddenly whip them away from him. Frankly speaking, had Toshiya come to speak to the young Mihashi two years earlier he’d have entirely agreed with the boy; after all he lacked any significant amount on his pitches, making his control almost meaningless. However, that had completely changed by his senior year as while the boy still did not throw a pitch over 90 mph/ 144kmph, his fastest pitch only being a fastball that could kiss 85 mph/ 136kmph, his pitches were varied enough to force batters to constantly adapt. Which, when combined with the fact the boy’s stamina was higher than most of his peers, meant that he had an extremely high possible ceiling, if he was in the right hands.
‘Which most definitely doesn’t include his previous coaches’, running through Toshiya’s head as he watched the boy eagerly read the stats. The look on Ren’s face made it clear that the boy had probably been under the tutelage of a high school coach who believed in the older way of doing things and wasn’t basing his players’ individual training regimens on their performances.
“Given the reputation of your prefecture being a hitter’s paradise during the high school prefectural tournament, your ability to consistently hold teams to fewer than four runs are quite a feat” he began, making sure to carefully say each one of the words in a calm and measured manner.
“And while your lack of a Koshien appearance might have protected you from getting drafted, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible pitcher” earning him a dazed, almost distant, look from the boy.
“Drafted~?” coming from him in a weak whisper that seemed to border between disbelief and amusement.
“Sato-san, while your promise is appreciated, I think there might be an elephant in the room” Ms. Mihashi added, her words causing Toshiya to glance towards Ren.
“My son may have the skills you desire, but he doesn’t have the grades to get into a school like the University of Tokyo”.
“Actually, I have looked at his grades, and it seems that while his day-to-day assignments are fine, his main problem is with quizzes and tests” Toshiya countered, earning him an almost sorrowful nod from Ren.
‘And seeing him today, I can see how that might happen’
“So as long as he can iron out his test anxiety, I can’t see any reason he couldn’t get in, stay in, and do well at our school” his words making Ms. Mihashi turn towards her son, who was now staring at Toshiya in a trance-like state.
“You r-r-really think so?” barely creeping from Ren, earning him a smile and nod from Toshiya.
“I wouldn’t say so, if I thought otherwise”.
“Momoe-san, I just want to tell you that I am incredibly thankful that you and your staff would consider looking at my grandson” these were the words which greeted Maria when she’d first stepped into the Sawamura household. A greeting that, combined with a welcoming smile from a gray-haired man who sported a mohawk, gave Maria complete confidence that this would be a smooth recruiting trip.
“My grandson has been eagerly waiting all day”, the man continued as they walked the short distance from the house’s front door, down its skinny, white walled hallway, and moved towards the house’s sitting room. The joyful and cheery nature of the man’s tone further being bolstered by the almost confident smile on his face.
“He hasn't been able to contain his excitement since he got your email, and when you called-”.
“It must have been a surprise?” Maria guessed, after many schools at the high school and collegiate level had adopted the practice of sending out emails to “preferential” students to remain on their radar. However, regardless as to how personal and polite these emails seemed; most were usually a little more than a generic publicity campaign.
“Yes, very much so, after all, his teams never managed to make it far in the prefectural high school or middle school tournaments and he didn't play for an impressive little league or junior league team,” the old man added, his matter-of-fact statement earning him a well-intentioned chuckle from Maria.
“Sawamura-san, as flash as Koshien might seem and as great as it might be to be there, when it comes to playing at the next level what matters most is that an athlete gets as much playing time as they can”.
“If that’s your belief, you’ll find-” the old man began, only for his praise for his grandson to abruptly cut off as he reached the sitting room. The abruptness prompted Maria to stand on her toes and peer around the man’s shoulders to try and trace his line of sight to see what he was seeing. Her gaze went to the middle of the sitting room and caught sight of a young, black haired young man lying asleep with his head on the sitting room table. The mere sight caused a smile to creep across her face.
‘I guess his excitement messed up his sleep schedule’
“Eijun, you idiot!” the old man cried before running over to the sitting table and beginning to vigorously shake the sleepy youth.
“Come on ojisan…five more minutes” stumbling out of the boy’s mouth as his grandfather shook him.
“Eijun, if you don’t wake up, Momoe-san won’t be here in five minutes” being the man’s reply, a mostly empty threat. The young boy shooting straight up, as though he’d been shot, the moment that the words reached his ear as he began to look around wildly.
“I’m sorry Momoe-san!!!” he cried, as he turned towards Maria, and before bowing profusely, accidentally smacking his forehead on the table’s smooth surface with so much vigor that Maria couldn’t help but instantly forgive the boy.
“It’s fine, it’s fine”, coming as she quickly crossed the room and sat down by the boy. Her words sent a relieved expression across Sawamura’s face as Maria placed her bag on her lap and began to withdraw a few of the recruitment materials.
“So, Sawamura, I was really impressed with your stats and believe that you have a great deal of potential as a pitcher” Maria began, taking care to try and keep her excitement at merely getting to speak to a pitcher with this much potential as controlled as she possibly could.
“And if you attend our university, you’ll be able to develop your position”.
“Can I get a scholarship if I go?” the boy asked, his question earning him an almost offended look from his grandfather.
“Not athletically” Maria replied, cutting off the boy’s grandfather and redrawing the attention to herself.
“But the university has plenty of academic, merit, and need based scholarships that would make the process of attending affordable,”.
“See,” Eijun’s grandfather added as he nudged the boy in the side as Maria continued.
“You don't need to worry about it, as long as you straighten out your grades a bit, you’ll be able to get something, and you won’t have to worry about housing because of the dorms that the school supplies”.
“And there’s the fact that if all goes to plan, you’ll be able to have a degree from one of the best universities in Japan, all you’ll need to do is pass the entrance exam” she added, noticing the slight glint that appeared in Sawamura’s eyes as she did so.
“That is, of course, if you manage to get in, but I’d understand if you don’t want to try” she relented, glancing down towards the logo at the materials that were in her bag as she did so to feign a sort of melancholy.
“After all, the University-”
“I’ll do it!” Eijun shouted, his declaration earning him another irritated look from his grandfather.
“I’ll apply and I’ll get in, I’ll study all day and night for a month if I have to” he added, his bold pronunciation causing a bead of sweat to appear on the side of Maria’s face.
‘That’s not exactly the best study habit, but if it works it works’ being all she could think as she watched Eijun receive another round of scolding from his grandfather.
‘But we’ll need that determination and spirit if we’re going to make it anywhere’.
‘I bet Momoe-san’s having a better time than I am’ Goro thought as he strolled down the street outside Saitama Industrial Academy’s dorms. Frustration slowly seeped out of her as she continued to walk down the road following a certain elite, intelligent, and extremely cryptic 18-year-old catcher as he made his way down the road, the bag on heavy bag he’d been carrying all day causing his shoulder to ache.
‘I didn’t think it would be easy, but this is ridiculous’, running through Goro’s mind as he continued his stroll, the words being a sort of understatement. Goro had been expecting at least a little resistance from the boy, after all while he was a college scout, and a former baseball player, he was still representing the University of Tokyo, a school not known for its athletic prowess. However, what he didn't expect was to be effectively made second fiddle to the young prospect’s errand list. The duo had gone to the nearby grocery store, complete with a stop for drinks from a vending machine, and a supplies store for a writing assignment the prospect had to do. Almost always seeming to take the longest possible route to each of the locations.
‘He’s lucky he’s so talented,’ was all Goro could think as the boy finally seemed to come to a stop.
‘Well, that and the fact that Toshiya really wanted to recruit him’.
“You must be serious about whatever you want to tell me, most of the others would have left by now” the boy said, turning to face Goro as he did so. The sight of which caused Goro to feel a little bit of frustration vaporize, before reaching into his bag and proceeding to pull out a few of the materials that he’d brought.
“Yes, I am” he began, handling the materials as he did so.
“I’m a representative for the University of Tokyo and I’m here to give you some materials about the perks of joining us in the spring”, the words earning Goro a raised eyebrow from the boy.
“University of Tokyo? Didn’t that school go 149 matches without winning?”, the question prompted Goro’s face to sag slightly.
‘ It was actually on 129 matches, and that was decades ago’, although he didn’t dare point out the error in the boy’s information, it wasn’t as though it made that much of a difference.
“Yes, but that was a long time ago, during the 1980s and 1990s-”
“Didn’t they lose nearly 70 straight too?” cutting Goro off and causing his face to fault a bit more.
‘This really isn’t going the way I hoped it would’
“Yes, but that was also a while ago and under a different coach” he pointed out, his words causing the boy to cross his arms and raise his eyebrows even higher.
“So? It doesn’t matter how many times they get a new coach as long as they never invest in their baseball program” the boy countered, another point that seemed to hurt less than the previous one, and Goro’s eyes flashed as he saw an opening.
“What if they hired a new coach to show that they intend to increase the investment in the program?”
“They’d have to make a pretty big hire, like a former NPB star or-”, the boy countered, his eyes falling onto Goro as he did so, only to fall silent at the realization of the man he was speaking to. The boy’s reaction causing the small grin on Goro’s face to widen extensively.
“Let’s say that they did that and that you had the grades and testing skills to get in, would you consider the idea?” Goro asked, causing the boy to look him up and down, before glancing at the logo on Goro’s hat.
“You’re the new head coach?”
“Yep, and I’ve got a whole new coaching staff, one of whom is a former pro catcher and is dead set on try to get you” Goro replied, taking advantage to cross his own arms before adding.
“The question is, do you want to take the opportunity?
It's JackieRobinson. I just want to say thank you all again for reading my story, especially since I missed updating last week. I just wanted to give you all a heads up that this will be last recruiting chapter for the first year of the story. The next chapter will see the team begin practicing and trying to mesh together. I once again, thank you all for reading this week's chapter. Don't forget to leave a kudos or a review if you like the story and want to read more.
“Miyagi sure is beautiful this time of year” Maria mused, her words causing Toshiya to look up from his scouting report and look out the window of their train cabin’s window. His attention caught sight of the beautiful flowers, and green grass that stood at the edge of the railroad tracks, all of it blurring together as the train sped by. The green grass and multicolored flowers, combined with the blue sky, seem to be something straight out of a Toho or Ghibli movie rather than real life.
‘Then again, given the number of prospects we’ve been able to reach, you’d think that the three of us were in some American sports movie or baseball anime’ running through his mind as he watched the large rice fields roll by.
“Yeah, yeah it does”, gently coming as he did so, another glance up towards the sky causing an idea to pop into his head.
“Though I hear it snows a lot in Sendai”, the statement earned a snicker from Goro, surprisingly.
“Then he won’t find any real difference in Tokyo”
“They” Maria corrected, taking the scouting report from Toshiya as she did so, separating it to reveal that rather than there being one large scouting report, there were actually only two moderately sized ones. Allowing Goro and Toshiya to catch sight of the photo of a short, orange haired, young boy whose report lay hidden under the report of the taller, black haired young man. The smaller orange haired boy smiled wildly into the camera, as though he was having the time of his life, while the black haired boy’s sterner expression made it seem as though he was rather inconvenienced by having to have his picture taken.
“That’s assuming that they come, I heard that there were local universities also trying to get them to join as well”, being accompanied by a shrug as Toshiya glanced at the second boy’s picture.
“That’s why we’re taking this trip in the first place” Goro cut in, placing his hands behind his head as he did so.
“It’s also why we should get ready to take any opportunities we can to convince them to join us”.
“Well, I guess I could see us pitching the weather,” Toshiya replied, Goro’s thoughts seeming to make some sense.
“I mean, compared to Sendai, Tokyo’s snowfall is nothing; we get snow once or twice a winter, if we’re unfortunate, but up here in Sendai, if they get that little they think it must be dry-”.
“That’s not what I meant!”, cutting Toshiya off as Goro pouted slightly, earning him a raised eyebrow from the former catcher.
“What I meant was that we can use the information we have on the schools that are currently giving them offers, they may have results, but we have potential”, Goro explained gesturing towards Toshiya and Maria before adding.
“We also have two former NPB stars and a young scouting genius”.
“Well, that might be a good pitch, but it won’t have any impact unless we have the basic information necessary ready for them”, Maria cut in, handing the scouting report of the black haired boy to Toshiya and the orange haired one to Goro.
“Now, let’s run over everything one last time”
There are some things that everyone can agree on. The sky is almost always blue on a beautiful summer day, it's never a good idea to look at the sun without eye protection, Japanese summers are some of the most brutal in the world, and Shouyou Hinata loved baseball. Of course, that wasn’t surprising, the young boy had been playing the game of baseball since he was 4 years old, and he’d been watching baseball games since before he could remember. In the 14 years that he’d spent playing the game, only two things had kept him going; first, the simple love of the game and the second was the unique joy that he got from playing a new position. However, as much as Shouyou had, and continued to, loved the game of baseball there were two things which hadn’t changed: his height and his playing time, more accurately the lack of it.
Which was why, as he stood on the outer side of the chain link fence that surrounded the team’s field, what he and his friends called the “wrong side” of the fence, Shouyou was doing something he’d done countless times before. His hands gripping tightly on the fence as he watched the first and second years go about their last practice of the week. His eyes carried the intensity of a hawk as he watched his former coach hit a practice ball on a line drive towards the shortstop, who sprinted forwards to catch the ball.
‘No! No! You need to stay back and wait for the ball to get to you so that you can get your feet set’, rushing through his head as he watched the first year bobble the ball. The young first year ultimately dropped the ball; his only play being to second base, a benefit from the runner having to freeze due to the boy having charged the ball. The sight of the boy’s relief, and slight pride, at the play only caused Hinata to become even more sucked into the boy’s play, gritting his teeth and clinging to the chain link fence even tighter.
‘Oh come on, that’s the third time you’ve been over eager to make a play on the ball and haven’t looked around to check the field first, the team we lost to in the prefecture semi-finals the last two years would have-’.
“What are you doing?” snapped Shouyou out of his thoughts, sending him spinning around before coming face to face with a familiar, black haired, stern faced young man.
“Nothing”, being all that he could manage to creep out as he found himself on the receiving end of the boy’s merciless gaze.
“You know that Coach told us to stay away from practice since we graduated” the boy lectured, his words sent Shouyou’s down to the dirt in front of him, clasping his hands behind his back as he did so.
“Otherwise, we might distract the first and second years, then where will they be?”
“I know!” Shouyou cut in, clutching his hands together so tightly that he felt them begin to tingle, his gaze still locked on the ground.
“I know, Kageyama, I know, I just….” he began, pausing briefly, unsure of what words he could use to articulate what was on his mind.
“I just wish I could still play”, his quiet addition of the words causing Tobio to stiffen slightly before falling silent. It wasn’t like Tobio could invalidate the little orangette’s feelings; after all, deep down he also felt just like his former rival, turned teammate, turned friend. In that sense it was one of the few things that connected the two of them to all the third years they’d ever beaten and even the ones that had beaten them. The slight twinge of dark irony that the realization brought caused Tobio to give a barely audible, self-targeted grunt.
‘You’d almost think that our team never made it anywhere in the prefecture tournament’ running through his mind as he tried to force the sorrow he felt growing in his chest back down to his stomach. Needless to say, his effort failed miserably.
“What makes you think we won’t play anywhere else?” coming from him with a tint of irritation in his tone. His retort, causing Hinata to instantly snap his head upwards and look Tobio, the former royal ace of Karasuno High School, directly in the eye before giving his response.
“Don’t be stupid! You may have gotten the start in almost every one of our games, but I wasn’t so lucky!” Shouyou began, finding what he originally had planned to be a simple response was far more passionate than he’d intended.
“I played almost every position at least once in practice, did almost everything, and coach still barely ever looked my way,” he continued, feeling as though years of frustration were starting to bleed into his words. The three years that he’d spent being forced to fill in missing fielding positions, even ones he was woefully inexperienced or physically not suited to doing, the only bread crumbs of recognition he’d gotten for his efforts was serving as a pinch runner in official matches. Sure, he’d been good at it, one of the best, he boasted the second-highest number of stolen bases of anyone on the team; but it wasn’t like those numbers changed anything.
“It’s only September, someone’s going to contact you to play, even if it’s only as a pinch runner” Tobio countered, taking note of how Shouyou flinched at the mention of the position he’d been confined to for the past three years.
“That’s easy for you to say”, Shouyou mumbled as he returned his gaze to the ground, preventing him from seeing the way that Tobio clenched his jaw in frustration at his friend's words. Luckily, however, before he could say anything else; the two of them were interrupted by the sound of footsteps moving towards them. His eyes fell on a trio of adults, two men who looked to be in their early thirties with a woman who looked to be in her twenties standing not far from them. Each of them dressed in a pair of dark colored pants, a sky blue baseball jacket, all while donning a sky blue hat; their dress initially caused Tobio to feel the desire to ask them a question. That was until he caught sight of the white outlines, half sky blue, and half orange T that were not only on their baseball caps, but also their jackets.
“Hello,” politely, coming from the slightly smaller of the two men, whose cap hid what looked to be a head of well-kept hair.
“Hello,” being all Tobio could, or was really interested in, replying; more than satisfied to return to his conversation with his former teammate. At least, he was until the same man added.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Kageyama Tobio, would you?” the question causing Tobio to furrow his eyebrows in suspicion.
“That would depend on whose asking”, flowing from his lips as he felt his mind dip back into its natural pool of suspicion; a pool that he thought he’d left when he first met Shouyou. Then again, in every thing he’d read or seen people asking if you’d “happen to be” someone didn’t ever end well for the person, or person, that answered.
“Oh, I’m sorry” the man answered, letting out a slight chuckle, before moving on.
“I’m Sato Toshiya, I’m an assistant baseball coach for the University of Tokyo” he began gesturing to the woman next to him.
“This is Momoe Maria, my pitching coach” and then to the man who stood by him.
“And this is Shigeno Goro, our manager, and our head coach”, the addition of that last statement causing Hinata to spring over to, and stand beside, Tobio. His previously deep thoughts seemed to vaporize as his now star struck eyes lit up his face.
“Shigeno Goro? You mean the famous pitcher who went to America and was in the Baseball World Cup?” flying eagerly from the orangette, his compliments causing the slightly taller of the two men, with a head of unkempt hair, to chuckle before putting a hand behind his neck.
“Thanks for the compliments”
‘It helps when those compliments are based on statistical fact’ running through Kageyama’s mind as he crosses his arms.
“Yeah, I’m Kageyama Tobio, why do you ask?”
“I’m asking because I’m here to make both of you a proposal regarding your future” Toshiya began, withdrawing what looked to be a brochure from the bag that was over his shoulder; his words causing Tobio to raise an eyebrow.
“We’ve seen your stats, video footage, and your test scores; it's all pretty impressive” Toshiya continued, zipping his bag up as he did so.
“Cracking the starting up by the end of your first year, having a 1.87 ERA, Netting 7 wins in 11 starts, reaching the Koshien semifinal round not once but twice” Maria added, making a point of raising a finger on her right hand with every accomplishment that she listed.
“That’s quite the list of achievements, especially when considering the fact you were able to keep up your academics,” her addition causing the bright glimmer in Hinata’s eyes to dim slightly.
“And Hinata, getting 85 stolen bases in three years, including 4 steals of home, serving as Karasuno’s defacto pinch runner” Goro added, peeking Shoyou’s attention up.
“You know all that?”
“Of course, it’s not that hard to find these stats if you know where to look,” Maria replied, her words coming with a mere wave of her hand, her actions causing Tobio to think one thing.
‘If that was the case, you’d think there might have been more people looking at Shouyou in the first place’
“Why should we join your team? Isn’t the University of Tokyo awful at baseball?” this time earning him a look from Shouyou, a look which was, needless to say, not a supportive one.
“Kageyama! Shhh! Don’t-”
“You’re right” Goro cut in, earning him both the boy’s attention.
“We aren’t good right now, however, we’ve been going throughout the country and recruiting players just like you, and with them, we could end up being fantastic”
“When?” Tobio, naturally, cut in, his question earning him little more than a shrug of Goro’s shoulders.
“In a year or two, but I promise that before you graduate college, our team will be in contention for the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League title at least once”.
“So, do you boys want to join a team that will have a whole new batch of first years you can actually compete against? Or do you want to go to a school where you’ll probably have to ride the bench a few years before getting a start?” Maria asked, as Toshiya extended his hand, the brochure clasped tantalizingly in his hands.
Six months can fly by in the blink of an eye, one moment we can be bathed in the warmth of July and next be enveloped with the bitter cold of November. And as Goro stood by the dugout by the large side entrance of the University of Tokyo’s recently refurbished baseball field, his eyes trained on the amassed group of players lined up opposite him. He couldn’t help but feel a smile begin to creep onto his face as he took in a big breath of the fresh, spring air.
‘It’s finally time’ running across his mind as he watched the line of white uniform-clad young men standing stock still at full attention across from Maria and Toshiya. All but a few of them being freshmen that Goro and his team had directly recruited, or sophomores that he’d somehow managed to convince to stay. The latter ground had been surprisingly difficult to gather, even considering Goro’s background, with Goro being forced to even try and float the possibility of Toshiya playing a slightly reduced role for the next two years to keep some of the more senior members. None of which worked, as all the third years, who would now be seniors, had chosen to drop out of the baseball program to pursue their studies.
“No offense Shigeno-sama, but there’s no way we’ll be able to get any playing time with the all the high schoolers you’re bringing in”
‘It’s not as though there’d be much of a change’, Goro thought, as he began to stroll towards the group of lined up young men. His appearance, causing several of the members to somehow manage to stand up even straighter in their posture even more than before, making themselves seem more like statues than people. But all of them boasted a unique level of eagerness to begin practicing that most of the remaining players from the previous year had lacked when Goro had shadowed their practices.
‘Well, not initially,’ he added as he reached the lineup of young men, taking in the sight of their bright, Carolina Blue and orange caps as he did so.
“Good morning, my name is Shigeno Goro, for the incoming freshman, I will be the coach for the duration of your time here, and the sophomores, juniors, and seniors as of this moment I will be taking over from Coach Inoue,” he began, taking care to be measured in his steps and words, just as he and Kaoru had gone over that morning.
“On behalf of my assistant and myself” he continued, making sure to gesture towards both Maria and Toshiya as he did so.
“I would like to congratulate all of you on managing to get into the University of Tokyo, that’s no small feat and all of you should be proud, and I would like to thank you for all believing in my staff and myself enough to come here, together, I believe that we can bring in a new era of baseball at this university”. With that Maria stepped forwards and withdrew her signature notebook from her pocket, slipping open a few pages.
“We will begin warming up with stretches and going four laps around the field, then we will divide and do separate drills based on the position listed in your introduction”, she began, pointing to the boy at the end of the group, a short kid with brown hair, in a sort of “speaking of which” gesture, which caused him to step forwards.
“Yes, h-hello, my name is Kobayakawa Sena, and I was a utility fielder in high school”, his introduction being accompanied by a light skinned, dark haired young man.
“I’m Tajima Yuichiro, I played third base and batter clean-up in high school”.
“I’m Yu Nishinoya, I started at shortstop last year”
“I’m Hinata Shoyo, I was mostly a pinch runner when I was in high school, but I can play in any position”.
“I’m Kominato Haruichi, I was a second baseman in high school”.
“I-I-I-I…” the next boy, an organette who was only a few centimeters taller than Haruichi began, pausing briefly and nervously looking around, as though he was unsure of what else to say. His nervous glances only being cut off when Haruichi gave him a sincere, yet soft, elbow in his ribs.
“I’m Mihashi Ren, and I was, I am, a pitcher”.
“I’m Sawamura Eijun, and I’m also a pitcher”, the black-haired boy next to Mihashi added, causing Mihashi to stand straight up and begin looking around wildly.
“Hi, I’m Abe Takaya, and I was my team’s starting catcher”.
“I’m Tsukishima Kei, I was a first baseman in high school”, a tall blond-haired boy with blue glasses added, sending Goro’s gaze over to a tall, curly, black haired, and brown skinned young man.
“Spencer Patrick, back in America I was a second baseman”, the boy began, his introduction earning him an almost unseen glance from Haruichi. Almost.
“But I’ll play almost anywhere”.
“I’m Yamaguchi Tadashi, I didn’t really play much in high school, so I’ll play anywhere”
“I’m Hanai Azusa, centerfield”.
“Kageyama Tobio, starting pitcher”.
“My name is Sugawara Koshi, I was a utility infielder last year,” an oddly gray-haired boy added.
“I’m Kitamura Kou, starting pitcher, and I was the ace last year”, a black-haired boy with a relaxed look on his face and a pair of large ears firmly stated. His declaration causing both Ren and Eijun to straighten up, their reactions causing a particularly mischievous smile to come over the boy’s face as Goro thought.
‘Momoe and I will be the judge of that’, before turning his attention further down the line of players.
“My name’s Tetsuo Ishimaru, I was mostly a pinch hitter in high school”.
“I’m Azumane Asahi, I was also a utility fielder”, the boy’s declaration leaving a single, tall, well built, brown haired young man left.
“I’m Takigawa Chris Yuu, I was a starting catcher last year” he said, the boy being the only senior, or soon to be senior, member of the previous year’s team who’d elected to stay on despite Goro’s recruitment drive.
‘He’ll be our anchor, at least until the rest of the team gets experience’ running through Goro’s mind as he ran over the 18 players who were in front of him one last time. These 18 players hopefully serving as the ushers of what could be a new chapter in the University of Tokyo’s baseball tradition.
“Alright, let’s get started” he boomed, before stepping away and watching Maria and Toshiya begin to do their work.
A few hours and a few agonizing rounds of calisthenics later, the eighteen players were divided into two groups and began their separate practices. The pitchers and catchers moving off towards left field beginning to warm up their arms while the rest of the players went through the process of preparing for fielding drills and hitting drills. In other words, real practice, or at least that’s what Chris could tell most of the first years had been thinking, when they’d been divided into groups. He’d seen it in the way most of their eyes had lit up when they’d been divided, and the way they’d sprinted off to their stations.
‘The freshmen will all need to get better poker faces if they don’t want to be singled out’ ran through Chris’ mind as he and Abe played a game of three way catch with the pitchers, each of the two having paired up with two pitchers for warm-ups. With Kou catching a toss from Ren before turning and throwing the ball to Kou, who turned and gunned the ball to Chris with a loud thwack that caused the orange haired boy, Mihashi he believed, to jump.
‘Looks like this Kitamura kid's a quick starter, his arms locked and loaded before anyone else's’
“I want you to focus on your partners you’ve been assigned” Maria began, continuing to examine the two groups of three as she did so.
“I want you to study together, talk together, memorize each other's pitches, and spend genuine time together with each other outside of practice” she continued, her words coming as Mihashi tossed the ball to Chris, who fielded the ball and threw it to Hiruma.
“Over the course of the next few weeks I want you to become members of two separate pitching batteries, so that not only will the catchers know the pitches of each of their pitchers, but that each pitcher will know what to do for any of the defensive alignments that their catchers will call on”. She continued, watching closely as Kou continued their triangular warm-up, trying to find a way to keep up to the throwing practice, their speed gradually increasing.
“It’s only through building this trust in not only your teammates, but also your battery mates, that we’ll be able to grow as a team and you’ll be able to improve as a player”, she finished, her words sending Chris’ own gaze over towards the other freshman who were next to them. Noting the way that one, Sawamura Eijun if he remembered correctly, enthusiastically took to throwing the ball to his teammate and caught the ball from the catcher. Much to the surprise of his training partner and the slight annoyance of the catcher who’d been tasked with supervising them.
‘He’s going to be a handful’, bring the first thought to pop into Chris’ mind as he withdrew the baseball from his own mitt and delivered a no-look throw to Hiruma; just as another thought came to mind.
‘But if he’s trained right, he could be good’
While the pitchers and catchers were focused on getting to know each other, the infielders and outfielders were also performing a bonding experience, albeit one that was slightly less desirable.
“Come on you guys, put your shoulders into it” Toshiya shouted as he watched the boys, his words causing some of the boys to increase the speed of their throws but, sadly, not their accuracy. Like most coaches in the first week of practice, Toshiya’s first practice was to try and find out what the talents and skills of his incoming classes were. The first item was to try and see the boy’s arm strength, endurance, and accuracy; a task he’d embarked on by putting them in 6 pairs of people, largely based on their position, and giving them a simple instruction. Throw the ball, as far as they could, as accurately as they could, as long as they could.
‘Well, at least I found where I’m starting from’, he thought as he watched the boys’ throws gradually becoming more accurate. Bringing a smile to Toshiya’s face, well an internal one, as Toshiya simply continued to quietly watch the throwing exercise as though it was nothing to write home about.
‘Looks like it's time’
“Alright, 10 more steps,” he shouted, the announcement causing several of the players to pause mid throwing motion, a sight that made Toshiya internally cringe, before taking the required number of steps back and restarting to throw. The slight difference in distance caused the recipients of all the throws to have to stake a step or two forwards to catch the ball, something that made Toshiya shake his head slightly.
“Don’t adjust to get your partner’s throws”, he called, causing a few of the boys to turn and face him.
“They need to be able to start practicing making adjustments on the fly based on their sight alone”, he added, his criticisms making it so that the next throws weren’t met with as much aid by the receiving party.
‘That may not entirely be true, in a game situation the person catching the ball would also need to adjust slightly, but they need to start building this skill somewhere’, running through his head as he saw the next round of throws require the receiving party to move even less than before and the throws to be better, if only slightly. Toshiya’s total focus on the fielders performing their exercises, causing him to not notice a certain man walking up to him from behind.
“Hey, Sato” a familiar voice called, causing Toshiya to turn around and see Goro.
“How’s it going?”
“Good”, Toshiya answered, uncrossing his arms and placing them on his waist as he did so.
“They’re already starting to make progress,” he continued, to which Goro nodded.
“If we do this every practice for the next few weeks, we should be able to catch up to the more elite schools, if only in regard to arm accuracy, it isn’t much, but it’ll be one less advantage they’ll have over us”.
“Good, with how good most starters in the other schools are, the last thing we need is to rob our pitchers of outs”, Goro added before glancing past Toshiya towards the line of boys. A certain twinkle appeared in his eyes as he ran them over, signaling Toshiya his friend was looking for the same thing he was.
“They all look average,” Toshiya said, catching Goro’s attention.
“They might have been some of the best, if not the best, of their teams, but all of them, with the exception of the Tajima kid, look like they wouldn’t get the starting nod on any other Tokyo Big 6 League team, or maybe other college teams, until their second or third year”.
“Well, I guess that means we’ll have more time to see them in real game scenarios”, Goro countered, his trademark cheeky smile coming over his face, earning him a shake of the head from Toshiya.
“That’s one way to look at it”.
“No Toshiya,” Goro countered, his use of his first name catching the man’s attention.
“It’s the only way to think about it,”.
If the 18 boys who'd joined the University of Tokyo baseball team thought that the first official day of practice was long because of all the drills, then they no doubt found that the next day of practice was long because it was so tedious. Or it at least felt tedious to the 12 young men who were to make up the team's infielders and outfielders as they sat, panting, and out of breath, by one of the dugouts that was across from the entrance to the university's practice field.
"I...I don't think I can run another...lap", coming from one exhausted Azusa Hanai as he collapsed onto the ground while one of his teammates, Koshi Sugawara, crossed over from the other dugout with a plastic basket of water bottles in one of his hands. The short haired freshman's declaration not being as dramatic as it sounded, given the fact that their coaches had given their players their first look into the routine of the practices for the rest of the year. Switching over the traditional well rounded practice that they'd performed the previous day, to one which was heavily focused on cardiovascular exercises; relacing practice throws with sprints, endurance runs, and other drills meant at building up cardiovascular endurance.
As one might expect, the sudden shift from one type of practice to another, the difference in practice regimen hadn't been easy for any of the players to adjust to.
" I never thought that running would be so hard" Yamaguchi added as he received one of the water bottles Sugawara was handing out and eagerly began chugging from it, while Hanai and the other players eagerly began doing same.
"Was there this much running last year?" Sena asked, earning him a laugh from Sugawara, the grey-haired boy's response causing the young freshman to flinch.
"Well, we did do a lot of running in the first week" Sugawara began, earning him a look from the teammates around him, especially the first years. The second years and upper classmen wanting to check to see if he was remembering things to be right, while the first years did so out of a genuine curiosity as to whether they were actually as weak as they felt.
"But we usually didn't do this much in a single setting" he added, causing some of the first years to collapse to the ground, letting out a sigh of relief as they did so, while the other players gave affirmative nods.
"I wonder how long we're gonna have to do running?" Hanai asked, vocalizing the thoughts of almost every one of his teammates, the question itself earning him a long pause from the rest of his teammates as they struggled to collective catch their breaths. That was until Spencer gingerly sat up, having finished gulping down his water, and answered.
"Well, judging by Coach Sato's demonstration after our stretching, I'd say not for a long time," his words sending the team's thoughts back to the statement in question.
"Yesterday, you boys got a small taste of the practice regimen we'll be using this year" their Coach had begun after he'd gotten all of the fields together.
"It won't be the same thing every day, as we'll be changing it up based on the results from practice games, scrimmages, and official matches" he continued, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a baseball. A smile seeming to creep onto the face of some of the fielders, particularly the first years, which is why the following words hurt a bit more than they normally would have.
"However, things will be different for the next few weeks," instantly catching all the boy's attention, seemingly out of a great eagerness for what good surprise they thought they were about to receive.
"This is a baseball" Toshiya stated, his description of the obvious earning him a few odd looks. Looks that quickly became surprised as Toshiya turned and air mailed the ball several dozen meters into the practice field's outfield.
"And that's the last you'll be seeing of baseballs until the second half of practice, because for the next two weeks of practice we will spend at least 3 hours of every practice, doing sprints, jogging, stretches, and other cardio exercises" he finished, his proclamation's answer being met with a long silence.
"Now let's get started!"
The memory causing all of the boys to let out a noticeable, audible, and in some cases very much physical, sigh.
"All this running is going to kill us" Hinata added, his cry earning him an elbow to the ribs from the player nearest to him, Kei Tsukishima.
"Don't be so dramatic" accompanying the action, along with Hinata throwing an irritated look towards his blond haired teammate.
"It's not so bad", preventing the orangette from firing back a retort, or a physical gesture, and sending the entire groups' attention on to the marginally out breath form of Tajima.
"I mean, think about it, if Coach Shigeno, Sato, and Momoe really want us to do all of this running it probably means that they want us to be able to outlast our opponents in terms of stamina"
"So?" Sena asked, his words barely managing to get the words out as Tajima placed his hands behind his shoulder and looked across the field to where the team's pitchers were currently practicing.
"So, it means, not only do they intend to have us compete with every team we face, but they think we have the skills to actually stand a chance when going head to hear with Hosei, Meiji, Rikkyo, and maybe Waseda or Keio" Tajima added, his words once again causing the group to fall silent. Their silence highlighting one question that all the boys seemed to have pondered, or be pondering, at least once since they'd made it into the University of Tokyo and had joined its baseball team.
Could they beat Waseda? Could they beat Keio? Could the beat Rikkyo? Could they even beat Meiji or Hosei?
Sure, flukes could, and often did, happen given the very nature of the game of baseball. But to beat any of these schools in a manner that was so consistently and so convincingly that it was to be above all speculation about whether their victory had been a fluke. That was something the University of Tokyo had not done in baseball, consistently at least, in many year.
"I guess, I've never really thought about it that way", Sugawara added, his words causing several of the boys to look over to his smiling face.
"But it's a very good way of putting it"
"Well, that's what my coach said in high school. and it got us really far in ever prefectural tournament we played in" Tajima replied, shrugging his shoulders before sitting back down.
"Speaking of which, where did you go to high school again?" Hanai asked earning him a side glance from Tajima.
"Bijoudaisayama, why?" instantly causing a tinge of blue to appear on Hanai's forehead.
While the fielders were in the midst of being run ragged, the pitchers and catchers were undergoing an exercise of their own. Albeit one that was slightly less physically strenuous, but one that Maria Momoe was studying with the eyes of a hawk; particularly as the two current pitchers, Kou Kitamura and Eijun Sawamura, went about practice, by gunning the baseball into the mitts of their assigned catchers. The louds "thwacks" of the baseballs hitting the mitts and the passionate looks that both of the pitchers gave, slightly opposing their throws; not surprisingly, given the challenge that Maria had thrown before them half an hour before.
"How many of you have an extended amount of pitching experience" she'd asked, not bothering to tip-toe around the issue, her answer being met with three raised hands: one from Kou, one from Sawamura, and one from Mihashi. The last boy doing so while hesitantly looking over towards his fellow pitchers, as though he'd committed some sort of crime against them by daring to do so.
"How much experience do you guys have?" coming from her next.
"I was able to get the starting job in my second year and I start all of our official matches and most of our practice matches" Kou had answered, pausing briefly before answering.
"But my coach made a point of finding a reliever in my third year to get us over the last hump".
"My coach had me start every match" Sawamura boldly stated, doing so while placing hands on his hips in a power stance, sending Mari's eyes over to a still slightly fidgety Mihashi.
"I-I-I started" he began, looking away from Maria as he did so and instead aimed his gaze at the ground.
"But I was mostly a second starter or a long reliever, so my coach only let me start in practice games or take over when things when things got bad or we played a weak team," he clarified, earning him a nod from Maria.
'Though your stats show you were actually quite proficient in all of those roles, especially as long reliever' crossing her mind as she turned towards Kageyama. As, if anything, the amount of pitching experience that Mihashi got seemed to indicate that he had a noteworthy amount of success in all of the roles he' just described throughout his high school career.
'Perhaps if he'd been able to put a little bit more speed on pitches, he might have had a better shot at the starting job'
"I was mostly a middle reliever and a closer" being the black-haired boy's explanation for not raising his hand at Maria's earlier question.
"Alright, that'll all be taken into account, but for now let's start with a stamina drill by doing some practice throws"
'It's impressive to see the level of stamina they've got' she thought as she carefully watched Sawamura step forwards and deliver a throw that was just off target from the place the catcher had called for.
"Stop!" she called, leaving Kou to deliver one last throw, before the two boys turned towards her.
"How many pitches was that coach?" instantly coming from Sawamura the moment that Kou stopped his movement. A noticeable flash of light appearing in the boy's eyes as he eagerly waited for a report on his pitching, only to be met with Maria looking over towards Mihashi and Kageyama, who she'd tasked with keeping up with the pitch count of Sawamura and Kou so she could focus on the accuracy of their pitches.
"I had a count of 109 for Kitamura, coach" Kageyama answered, raising the tally counter she'd given him to prove his point.
'And I didn't see him waiver at all during his pitch' running through her head as she looked towards Mihashi.
"And I h-had 103 for S-Sawamura" he answered, his reply causing Sawamura to snap his head towards him.
"What?" thundering from him before he sprinted over to the orange haired boy, the look of disbelief on his face only growing as he looked at the tally counter.
'I think I'd put his maximum pitch count 100, bis accuracy was tailing off on the two pitches that came before he missed,' she thought, just Sawamura added.
"But I swore I threw more", in a breathlessly surprised tone which Maria simple elected to ignore.
"Alright, we'll take a three-minute break," she began, pointing towards Kou and a still somewhat dazed Sawamura.
"I want the two of you to ice your arms and get the tally counter from the person who counted for, then get ready to do the same for them" she added, before turning to Mihashi and Kageyama, then continuing.
"I want the two of you two work out signals with the catchers before you start your own pitching", her instructions earning her a nod from each of the boys before they scrambled to get going into the next phase of their practice. Both Mihashi and Kageyama clearly eager to demonstrate their individual skill, something that caught Maria's eye.
There are few things that can bring a college student as much anxiety in their first year as the prospect of being paired up with a roommate, especially one they don't know. After all, one only has to have a basic understanding of an internet search engine to find countless horror stories of roommates who were rude, inconsiderate, weird, and in some cases borderline abusive. A fear which, needless to say, is amplified when one attends a university in a foreign country and is made to navigate a language barrier; something that that Patrick Spencer was thankful wasn't his experience he'd endured so far.
'Though, that doesn't mean he isn't a little surprising' running through his head as he attempted to focus on his introductory history book and began reading again. His concentration on the book lasting only a few moments before he heard the sound of footsteps running down the hall, the door fly open, and a black haired boy step into the room while declaring.
"Ahhh, much better!" while dressed in little more than a baggy yellow shirt and a pair of short, his face sporting a toothy grin while his slightly damp hair was flat against his head.
"I take it you like shower?" Spencer asked, earning himself a wide smile and a shake of Tajima's head.
"Honestly, I've never had one before," Tajima answered, earning him a raised eyebrow from Spence.
"Yeah, back at my place we only had a bathtub, my parents said it was less expensive" Tajima answered, only causing Spencer to become more interested.
'Less expensive? How long were they bathing?' his deep thoughts causing him to lose sight of Tajima as he put on a new change of clothes.
"People take showers all the time in America, right?" catching Spencer off guard.
"America. That's where you're from right?" Tajima clarified, a question to which Spencer simply shrugged.
"You guess?" Tajima asked, not seeming to understand where Spencer was going.
"I'm from Saitama, but I don't 'guess' about that" Tajima added, giving his two yen on the topic, not seeming to get Spencer's implication. Not that it was the easiest thing to explain, at least not without a lot of statistics and a very long story about Spencer's life.
"It's an 'I guess' because I was born in America and I visit family there a lot, but I've moved around a lot" he clarified, pausing and mulling his answer over before adding.
"Mostly around the world", his careful description earning him a blank look from Tajima for a split second before a smile came across his face.
"Oh, you're one of those expat kids" he stated, throwing his hands behind his head as he did so, while Spencer let out a chuckle of his own.
"Heh, you could say that"
"So that explains your good Japanese" Tajima also added, eagerly, causing Spencer to sweat drop slightly.
'Not exactly, plenty of kids from my old school could barely makes themselves piece together words' he thought, as he watched Tajima hop on his bed.
'I guess I'll have to thank grandma for that,' running through his mind before he changed the subject.
"By the way Tajima, how're your classes going?", instantly causing the aforementioned boy to fall backwards onto his mattress with a groan.
"I'll take that as not too well?"
"It's fine", Tajima began, his answer being accompanied with wave of his hand.
"They're just so...boring, like the more than the classes in high school".
"Well, are more complex than those in high school, and were still only in the first week" Spencer replied, only to get a shake of Tajima's head.
"I just want to play baseball and nothing about school outside of class", the boy countered, tightly closing his eyes and shaking his head as he did so, earning him a chuckle from Spencer.
"Well, that's one way of doing it"
"It worked in middle school and a bit in high school" being all that Tajima replied before reluctantly rolling over and pulling out one of his test books from a disorganized pile. Giving Spencer the satisfaction that, even if unwillingly, the boy was at least moving to consider studying a bit more, leaving Spencer with a single thought.
'Saitama, huh, I wonder where in that prefecture he's from?'
If there was one thing that Goro had like about being a baseball player was that over the course of the off-season was that he had no work, with the exception of training, had followed him home. When he wasn't actively playing in games or doing spring training or working out to stay in shape, Goro was free to go about his day and spend as much time as he wanted with Kaoru, Izumi, and Daigo. The only concern, of course, being that he didn't eat an unhealthy diet that caused him to get out of shape, a luxury he sorely missed as he sat at his kitchen table reading the day's practice report for the at least the tenth time.
'Can't focus on that though' he thought as he moved to look at Toshiya's report of the lengthy cardio practice, he'd put the fielders through. Unable to prevent a chuckle from escaping his lips as he caught sight of the last line of the report.
All twelve did well overall, but it's clear that while they did receive a little bit of cardio training it likely wasn't enough. If we want to seriously have a chance of competing with other schools, this Autumn and in the Spring, we'll need to make up the difference as soon as possible.
"Why doesn't that surprise me" he muttered, both at the boy's lack of cardio endurance and Toshiya's ability to take not of that very same thing.
"What doesn't surprise you?" a feminine voice asked, causing Goro to glance over his right shoulder to see Kaoru walking up behind him dressed in a pair of lavender-colored pajamas.
"Oh, nothing" Goro easily responded, his answer causing Kaoru to walk up to him and peer over his shoulder at the reports in front of him.
"Doesn't look like nothing"
"It was just a report that Toshiya wrote for me" Goro added, causing Kaoru to nod and give a smile.
"What did he say?" her words causing Goro to let out another chuckle.
"Let's just say that our fielder will have to do a lot running in the next few weeks", his answer causing Kaoru to also chuckle.
"I remember when I played softball, our coach did the same thing" she added, just as Goro raised his head to give her a look.
"She said it was 'team building', or something like that"
"Did you believe her?" he asked, earning him a laugh from Kaoru.
"Let's just say it was easier to believe when we reached the prefectural championship every year, especially the two times we won it" she answered, before leaning down and giving Goro a gentle kiss on the cheek and disappearing upstairs. Leaving Goro to turn his attention back towards his work and pull up the report of Momoe on the pitchers she'd mentored that day. His eyes quickly running over the report's information record of the pitch location and type, before switching to her overall summary.
At this time, I can list the pitchers in order of stamina as follows.
Kageyama Tobio: 45 pitches
Mihashi Ren: 95 pitches
Sawamura Eijun: 100 pitches
Kitamura Kou: unknown amount.
'Unknown?' Goro made a point of rereading that part, only to find that the word hadn't changed.
But if I were forced to make a pitcher rotation based only on accuracy, I would make Kitamura and Mihashi our primary starters with Sawamura as a middle reliever, and Kageyama as a closer. The key is that we need to increase Sawamura's control, increase Kitamura's stamina, find out Kitamura's maximum stamina, and give Mihashi more on his pitches. While I cannot guarantee it can be completed this year, once it happens, we may have the best pitching staff in the league.
'Well, it'll be a difficult autumn and underclassmen tournament' Goro began, placing the report down as he did so,
'But if we get on it as soon as possible and streamline it, we might just be able to pull something off', coming just before he rose, tucked his papers under his arm, and went to bed.
It's me again. I hope that you're having a great start to the summer season, I know I am. I just want to let all of the new readers know to feel free to leave a kudos or a comment on the work if you want to show your support. It's the quickest way for me to get any criticisms that you might have and improve my work so far.
The first week of practice on a collegiate team, like the first week of college, is usually an absolute chore. The players and coaches have a new schedule to get used to, the players have to get used to dorm life, and everyone has to alter their diets to keep up with their new schedule. The difference is that for normal students the first weekend of school, while packed with homework, can be a break from the chaos of the first week. However, there's no sch relief for collegiate athletes during that time.
"Come on, move it!" being the remind of this as the entirety of the University of Tokyo baseball team moved to complete their 15th lap in the last quarter of an hour. Normally, this wouldn't have been difficult, it had been one of the things introduced to them on the second day of practice and the team had been able to do it on their own quite effectively. The problem was that on this Saturday morning, their run had been complicated by the fact that Toshiya had elected to make two noteworthy additions to how the running practice was going to be performed.
First, they would have to do so while remaining as a group, there would be no stranglers at the front nor at the back of the group. The second was that Toshiya had added the team's pitchers and catchers to the group, neither of whom had shared the running experiences of the fielders during the earlier part of the week. And it was the second requirement, rather than the first, that had seen their exercise draw to an agonizing crawl.
'I hope Goro's right about this' he thought as he watched the group struggled to stay together as they completed another lap. The four members at the front of the group, Tajima, Kobayakawa, and Haruichi kept looking backwards towards the rest of the group to mitigate their progress in compared to the rest of the group. The group passing by the pole to, hopefully, complete the final lap before they could move onto the main part of their practice.
'Not like things will get any easier when it starts; Toshiya though as he watched the group head off to do their last lap.
While Toshiya was busy implementing the first part of Goro's weekend practice plan two other individuals were busy looking at an equally important factor for their plan, the upcoming Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League's Fall League schedule.
"How long until our first official match?' breaking the focused silence that had settled over the two and sending Momoe's attention towards the small calendar that was stuck to the right wall of Goro's office, that detailed the regular season.
"September 18th" she answered, noting the team they'd be playing on that day as well as the next few teams after that.
"They have us playing Waseda first, then we get a week off before we play Rikkyo and Keio for the second and third series" the news causing Goro to let a long sigh.
"They couldn't start us off with easier opponents?"
"They probably could" Momoe answered, turning her attention back towards the practice reports that she, Goro, and Toshiya had compiled over the first week of practice as she did so.
"But a lot of teams probably want us as a tune up series before the season seriously heats up and the games start to matter", earning her another sigh from Goro as he leaned back in his chair and looked down at the unfinished practice schedule in front of him. While it might have been somewhat foolish in hindsight, Goro had originally been really optimistic about both the long term and short term for the team. After all, he'd not only managed to informally get some of the most reliable, if not as well scouted, talent in Honshu, but he'd also sustained this hope through the fact that the team had been able to rapidly adapt to the differences between fielding balls hit by metal bats and ones hit by wooden bats. However, things had changed slightly as the days had gone on, particularly when Momoe had returned with a training video that Coach Inoue had gotten of the team he'd had the highest amount of success against, Hosei.
'Why did I have to watch that video?' Goro thought as he returned his gaze towards the schedule, particularly the plan to introduce hitting practice the next week, which would move being the primary focus of the team during the last week before the season was set to start.
"By the way, Momoe, how many pitching machines do we have?" he asked in an almost carefree manner, earning him a look from Momoe.
"Three I think, Coach Inoue made a pretty intense push to get more, but the University never gave him the funds," she began, no doubt catching sight of Goro's raised eyebrow, before adding.
"They said it would be a 'waste of resources'", earning herself a nod from Horo as he raised his left pointer finger to his lips.
"Would it be possible for us to do a rapid rotation that gets our players both fielding and batting practice?" he then asked, this time being on the receiving end of a nod from Momoe.
"Yep, Coach Inoue and I used to do it all the time for the first years and to get the upper classmen warmed up", her answer causing a smile to slowly come onto Goro's face.
"Good, let's see what we can make happen", just as he glanced up at the office clock and took stock of the time, then rose from his seat.
"Come on, Toshiya should be done with warm-ups by now, it's time for us to get on with practice"
Sure enough, a quarter of an hour later every member of the University of Tokyo baseball team found themselves in the midst of an intense fielding drill. Including the figure of a single lanky and black-haired individual who was currently planted on the mound.
"Come on Kou, it's simple" Goro called from the safety of the third base dugout entrance, a batting helmet placed on his head.
"You just need to put your foot down, collect the ball, and throw it to first base in a clean motion" he continued, noting the way the young made a point of listening to each one of his points, adding.
"It's like when you're pitching but just send it to the first baseman", gesturing to Toshiya, who tossed the ball and hit it directly towards the aforementioned Kitamura who stopped, fielded the ball, turned, stepped, and threw the ball slightly off target to first base where Tsukishima was able to scoop the ball with his glove. The action causing Goro to briefly bring his right hand over his eyes in slight exasperation at the boy's fielding difficulties and ordered.
"Well, looks like we found Kitamura's weakness" Momoe muttered so as to only be audible to Goro, her words only causing him to shake his head.
"The kid can consistently throw over 150 km and dominate the plate like Mike Trout" Goro began, watching as Kou ran through the exact same frill again and again struggled to get the threw off right.
"But as Kami is my witness, he can't field a ball"
"Well, better that we see what needs to be improved before we start him against Waseda than after: Momoe added, clearly try to be the optimist in their conversation, but failing miserably. As he words instead caused Goro to shift his right hand to his head at the thought of the previous year's All-Japan University Baseball Championship Tournament winner, and perennial Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League contender, that they were about to have to play.
"God, he wouldn't get past the third inning" escaping his lip s in a whisper just as Kitamura managed to properly complete the drill. The completion of the throw causing the young Kitamura to jog off the field while Mihashi Ren jogged on, the young orange haired boy easily managing to do in one go what Kitamura had struggled to do in about a dozen. Quickly jogging off the field to be replaced by Kageyama who manage to do likewise, bringing Sawamura onto the field.
"Sato" Goro shouted, earning himself the attention of his young friend.
"Next", earning himself a nod before his assistant coach looked back at the field.
"Alright, we're doing double play drills, so everyone up the middle be ready" Sato called, earning himself a series of nods from the field before he tossed the next ball into the air and hit it right up the middle. The ball speeding past Sawamura and seemingly on a beeline towards the second base bag, sending Haruichi and Nishinoya towards the ball. Both of their eyes focused squarely on the ball, neither initially seeming to take any note of the other fielder, until Haruichi glanced up slightly and changed his course; allowing Nishinoya to quickly field the ball, using his momentum to seamlessly deliver a strike over towards Tsukishima at first base.
"Good" Toshiya called, making a point of gesturing over towards Haruichi and adding.
"Second, this one's for you", before sending a ball directly towards the pinkette, who easily fielded the ball, tossed it to Nishinoya, who delivered another accurate throw to first base. The combination of their speed making it clear that even the fastest of baserunners would struggle to prevent being throw out under any circumstance; be it a double play, a standard in field ground out, or if they cut off a throw from the outfield and were to make a strike to third base or home plate. Another nod coming from Goro as he watched Sato hit the ball over towards the team's full-time third baseman, Tajima, who easily managed to field the ball and send it to Haruichi at second, who gunned the ball over to first base to complete the play.
"Who's that at third base?" Goro asked as he watched the boy jog back to his position.
"I've been trying to get some more data on him since he arrived" Momoe answered, looking down at her small notebook as she did so, her words causing Goro to raise an eyebrow with interest.
"Very little outside of the fact that he played in Saitama and that he was the best player at his school" she began, briefly flipping through her book.
"School never made it far in the prefectural tournament, but he always made a point of putting on a show before they were defeated"
"Well, he's putting on a show now" Goro muttered, watching as Tajima fielded a throw from Nishoniya, stepping on third base to terminate a ghost runner, and then threw it over to first base to get the tail end of the double play.
'He might just make the future anchor of the infield' running through his head as he watched Tajima jog off the field and be replaced by Hinata. If Goro recalled correctly the tiny orangette had primarily served as a pinch runner during his time in high school, robbing him of both fielding and batting experience. Yet he'd been more than eager to try and get some practice reps at the proverbial hot corner of the infield than any of the other players on the field, when Goro had approached the need to have depth at the position.
"Big risk to take considering the person he's playing behind" Goro muttered as he watched the boy field a ball and throw it towards first base, his throw being only slightly off target.
"Did you say something?" Momoe asked, snapping Goro's attention towards her before calmly answering.
Unbeknownst to any of the coaches, or the players they were mentoring, their rehearsal for all future practices was being watched by a pair of unintended guests.
"Kento, I don't understand why we have to watch this," a young, blond haired, boy whispered before letting out a yawn.
"I mean, when I learned we were doing a special observation mission I thought it would be against a team that mattered" he added, glaring down at his nails before continuing.
"Not them", before making a disinterested nod of his head towards the practice field before him. However, if they young boy had been hoping for some sort of response for his somewhat rude display, he was frankly disappointed by the fact that the boy he was speaking to didn't move his eyes, or focus of the camera, from the field.
"Narumiya, how many times do I need to explain this" the black haired, clear glasses wearing boy began.
"Coach sent us to scout out the opposing team so we can be prepared for out series"
"I know," Mei continued, placing his hands behind his head before looking up at the sky.
"But we only scout serious opponent this far before the season starts with really good schools; like Rikkyo or Keio, this is the University of Tokyo, we always beat them" his final point not earning him any sort of immediate response from his scouting partner, who happened to be the team's vice-captain. Of course, that wasn't because Kento inherently agreed with what Narumiya was saying, but rather because it was an undebatable fact.
In the two decades since their coach had taken over the juggernaut that was Waseda University's baseball program he had only been two guarantees. First, that they would never fall before second in the standings of the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League's autumn or spring tournaments and second, that they would beat the University of Tokyo. In fact, during his twenty years as the head coach, their coach had managed to compile an outstanding 78-0 and had coached three pitchers to throwing perfect games against the University of Tokyo, while the only non-wins being draws. Even though their coach always stressed the fact that any team could surprise you and that you shouldn't overlook anybody even he wasn't paranoid enough to require such a scouting job in a normal year.
"You're right Mei" Kento initially replied, making a point of using his friend's first name and not breaking his eye contact from the field before him as he did so.
"But this year they've got a new coach, some former pro-baseball player from the NPB and MLB"
"What some wash out from American going to do?" Narumiya asked, his words causing Kento to pause, Narumiya's words finally seeming to get reaction from Kento.
"That 'washed up player' is Shigeno Goro" he began, instantly causing Narumiya's ears to peak up at the boy's words.
"Even if he can't get them to dominate the top of the table, he could still be a problem for us if we have to use a lot of our pitchers and players to beat him before we move onto the more intense part of the League tournament or have to use all the cards up our sleeves before the Meiji tournament or All-University Championship,"
"And coach would never let us live down a loss against a school like UT" he added, Narumiya countering Kento's words with a wave of his hand.
"Yeah, yeah, I know"
"Good, then you'll be more than willing to help me with this" Kento replied, thrusting a second camera into the blond boy's hands to shut him up, if only for a few minutes.