The Hanshin Tigers announced on September 10th that Masayuki Kakefu is resigning as farm manager at season’s end.
Kakefu was asked to be the team’s development coordinator in the fall of 2013, and became manager of the farm team at roughly the same time as Tomoaki Kanemoto was announced as top squad manager in the fall of 2015.
On his time as a coach, Kakefu reflected, “Several of the young players got promoted to the top squad, and there will still be more in the near future. In that sense, I really have a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in the work I have done over the past 4 years.”
The front office has said that the official reason for the move is a “changing of the guard” but a closer look seems to indicate other factors were at play as well.
- Last season, even during the year, Kanemoto and Kakefu were seen together talking baseball on multiple occasions, but this year there have been very few such instances.
- While the top squad sometimes requires players to stay after practice is over for extra batting or fielding practice, the second squad has left the onus more on the players to decide what’s best for themselves.
- Kanemoto has put a heavy emphasis on weight training to build up the players’ strength, while Kakefu really has not made that a big part of his managing philosophy.
However, some of the players that Kakefu has worked closely with during his tenure have shown incredible results. Masahiro Nakatani went from long-time farm player to a 19-home run hitter this season. Yusuke Ohyama started the season on the farm but has already been given the responsibility of hitting fourth for the top squad. And the player that has probably worked most closely with Kakefu over the years, Hayata Itoh, got his first career walk off hit on Sunday night at Koshien (against DeNA).
On the other hand, multiple players have fallen off abruptly under Kanemoto on the top squad: Fumiya Hojoh, Shun Takayama and Fumihito Haraguchi were all symbols of the team’s season of change last year. They are all on the farm. Shintaro Fujinami went from future staff ace in 2015 to a struggling confused wild horse in 2017. (That’s not to say all of the responsibility falls on Kanemoto, mind you.)
When Kakefu joined the team, the club requested him to wear his old uniform number, 31. He wanted to wear 85. But he has said that when he looks into the crowd and sees all the fans wearing his jersey, he is thankful to have had the chance to wear #31 again. He has also said that “the fans have come out in great numbers to Naruohama. It’s been a full house almost every day, and many fans come to every game. It’s to the point that I recognize some of the fans by face. In some ways, the eyes of the fans have helped develop the players just as much as the coaching staff.”
Rumor has it that Kakefu will be offered a position in the front office, much like ex-manager Yutaka Wada (Senior Advisor) received in 2015. He says he has not received a formal offer yet, though, and his future remains up in the air at present. One thing has been decided by the club, though. The last two home games of the farm schedule will be moved from Naruohama to Koshien Stadium. If you are free on September 27 or 28, consider checking out the farm team play one of its final games with Kakefu at the helm.