New Hanshin manager Tomoaki Kanemoto left the team’s fall camp in Aki, Kochi and returned to Osaka for business on the 4th. He intends to be back for the latter half of the camp but in his four days there, it seems the response has been positive enough. Seems like the “Kanemoto Way” has really boosted the Tiger Nine’s morale.
Kanemoto seems be brimming with satisfaction after four days of furious training at the Aki camp, which garnered plenty of attention. “It’s been a week since the fall practices we did at Koshien, but some of the players have completely changed. This reconfirms my belief that when you practice with purpose, you will see results.” Camp continues until the 17th, but it seems you can already give him full points, even at this early stage. The Iron Man, who has been barking strict orders at the players all week, says he feels that so far, “they seem to get it.” Behind the scenes, he has been telling the players:
“There may be a few exceptions, but you should be going up there to get hits. If there’s a sign, you’ll see a sign. I don’t care if your hits end up being liners to second or short. When you’re in the batters’ box, think for yourself. Then swing freely.” The players seemed pretty happy to get the green light from Kanemoto while at the plate. They got the message: “We’re breaking free from the ways of the former manager.”
Though former manager Wada led the team to the postseason three consecutive years, the players apparently did not like his game plan at all. One player who spent a lot of time on the parent club said, “Directions under manager Wada were too hard to understand. We played so poorly against (Giants pitchers) Mikolas and Poreda, but we were constantly ordered to hit to the right side of the field. One player was told to hit to the right side when there was a runner on first and no one out. He grounded into a double play and the coaches grumbled, “Why’d you ground into a double play?”
Another player had this to say: “When Wada was managing us he would tell hitters to keep the ball on the ground to the right side of the field so the runner could advance to the next base. The batter would tense up and hit a fly ball or a liner and the coach would say, ‘Why can’t you hit a grounder when you’re told to?’ A deep fly ball would advance the runner too, would it not? But it had to be a grounder. Everyone felt really limited.”
It may be rude to speak poorly of the recently departed, but players could not hide their gratitude towards the new manager who has been pushing hard to free the team from “Wada Ball.” In their words, “Kanemoto’s instructions are clear and thorough, and that makes our jobs a lot easier.” Freed from the curse they were under, team morale is on the rise.
Says Kanemoto, “When I talk about being strict, I know that yelling at players non-stop will not do anyone any good. I want to communicate with players and discuss things with them. I think of the players as family.” With words like that, the players’ trust is at an all-time high.