Chuo Online

  • Top
  • Opinion
  • Research
  • Education
  • People
  • RSS

Top>Hakumon CHUO [2010 Spring Issue]>Striving for a League Championship and National University Championship with a 156 kph Fastball—Tops Among University Pitchers

Hakumon CHUOIndex

People on the cover

Striving for a League Championship and National University Championship with a 156 kph Fastball—Tops Among University Pitchers

Pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, Baseball Team
(4th year student in the Faculty of Commerce)

Pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura

Before the Miyazaki training camp beginning on February 10th, all members of the baseball team shaved their heads. The haircut was an order from Coach Yoshimasa Takahashi. The team has gotten their heads shaved before. However, this time the players had a different feeling when participating in the ritual haircut.

Win the Division 1 title in the Eastern University League. Capture the title of Japan's strongest university at the Meiji Jingu Baseball Tournament.—Coach Takahashi has pledged to achieve these lofty goals this year, as Chuo University celebrates the 125th anniversary of its founding. All of the team's players came together and decided to shave their heads as a symbol of their dedication to achieving these goals.

The Chuo University baseball team plays in a division renowned for its strong teams and fierce rivalries. In autumn of 2004, the team won its first Division 1 title in 25 years (its 24th overall title). Since then, the team has not won a title. In order to celebrate the university's 125th anniversary, there are high expectations from university officials, alumni and fans for a division title and a national championship.

Conscious of winning as the ultimate goal

As the team strives to fulfill its goals, a great deal of attention will be placed on the team's ace, right-handed pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura (4th year student in the Faculty of Commerce). The 156 kph pitch that Sawamura threw during a league game last autumn was the fastest ball thrown by a university athlete at Jingu Stadium. Also, on November 22nd of last year, he participated in a game between university baseball players and professional players aged 26 and younger. He was one of the top two university pitchers at the game. Sawamura is the core of the Chuo baseball team and is also attracting great attention from professional teams.

Sawamura gave the following strong statement about his feelings while preparing for spring league games beginning on April 6th: “Our team wants to win our interleague games and to capture a national championship. Personally, I believe that I can win as long as I don't make the kind of mistakes which I will regret after the game. I want to play my last year with a winning attitude and without regrets.”

Sawamura is firmly conscious of his role as the team's ace, and he shows no signs of feeling uneasiness or pressure. He even tells himself that winning is everything. Professional baseball teams are already focusing on Sawamura, and most observers believe that he has already secured a top spot at this autumn's draft conference. No wonder Sawamura already shows a growing professional mentality.

Sawamura began playing baseball in his 2nd year in elementary school. At that time, he entered a local baseball team with his friends. He had played soccer until then. He began pitching in his sixth year in elementary school and joined the baseball club when he entered junior high school. He began to practice baseball seriously in junior high school. After graduating from junior high school, he entered Sano Nihon University High School (Tochigi Prefecture). He was the third-string and fourth-string pitcher for his high school team and played in the outfield during his final summer with the team. He wore uniform number 9.

Since entering university, has gained 14 kilograms through weightlifting

Sawamura never had the experience of participating in the Koshien High School Baseball Tournament when he was in high school. Although his fastball was unusually fast, he did not really stand out among other high school players. After passing through the summer selection process for applicants, Sawamura entered Chuo University through the sports referral program.

A hint of a smile can be seen within his serious expression.

He started to display his talent immediately after entering Chuo University. During the spring of his first year (Division II), he took the mound in 10 games and posted 4 wins, quickly establishing himself as a key player.. These positive results were due to Sawamura's continued practicing even after finishing his time with his high school baseball club because the coaches told him to prepare for pitching during his first year at university.

During the 3 seasons up until the spring of his 2nd year at university (Division II), Sawamura posted a cumulative record of 7 wins and 2 losses. Chuo University won the Division II title that spring and was promoted to Division I for the first time in 6 years. Sawamura has been a key player during the team's rise. He has posted a cumulative record of 10 wins (in 25 appearances) in Division I during the 3 seasons from the autumn of 2008 until the autumn of 2009. He is now the unchallenged ace of the team.

Sawamura emphasizes that he has made his greatest improvements as a player during his 3 years at university. He also states that a change in his way of thinking is the reason for his success. Upon entering Chuo University, he committed himself to improving his lower body strength. To achieve this goal, he took the initiative to set up a two hour weight training program that he performed 2 to 3 times a week. Even after practice had ended and other players returned to the dormitory, Sawamura silently continued his independent training.

All of this hard work has brought results. When entering Chuo University, Sawamura stood at 183 centimeters and weighed 75 kilograms. Currently, his weight has increased to 89 kilograms. “The speed of my pitches has increased in proportion to my increased size,” says Sawamura. Although he already appears to possess a sufficiently well-built physique, he is seeking to increase his power even further. “I'm still too skinny. I've got to get heavier,” he says.

However, physical strength is not the only area in which he has improved. “I have noticed that when training, there are many players who think that building physical strength is the essence of training,” he says. “However, the mental aspect of the game is what most separates one player from all the others. It is possible to leave other players behind if you raise the mental level of your game.” Sawamura is close to achieving his goal of becoming a professional baseball player, and he focuses his attention solely on baseball.

Coach Takahashi is “a bigger figure than my parents.”

“I will hold my opponent to 3 runs or less.”—The conviction of an ace.

After entering university, Sawamura has been most influenced by Coach Yoshimasa Takahashi. Coach Takahashi is an alumnus of Chuo University and played for teams such as the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Sawamura explains the importance of Coach Takahashi's presence by making the following bold statement: “He is the biggest figure in my life. Even bigger than my parents. Of course, I feel lucky to have received the instruction of Coach Takahashi. However, I also feel lucky to have encountered Yoshimasa Takahashi as an individual. Practicing baseball under Coach Takahashi has made me what I am today.”

“I sense affection behind Coach Takahashi's words. I really feel like everything that he says is intended to help me,” says Sawamura when explaining his absolute trust in his coach. According to Sawamura, Coach Takahashi gives almost no advice regarding his pitching form. Instead, the coach instructs his pitcher on pitching technique such as when to throw to different places and how to expand the range of his pitches.

Coach Takahashi is fond of saying that “a fastball is an effective weapon, but control is the most important aspect of pitching.” He has taught Sawamura the importance of thinking about each pitch and reading the intentions of the batter.

In addition to baseball, Sawamura says that Coach Takahashi has taught him the philosophy of giving importance to even the small details of daily life. Such teachings include the appropriate manners and conduct for an adult in society. “I like how Coach Takahashi speaks clearly and directly. I think that we are similar in how we honestly express our opinions,” says Sawamura when explaining the appeal of Coach Takahashi's personality. “I am not just a yes-man,” emphasizes Sawamura. “No matter what I am told by my superiors, I always state my opinion clearly. There is a line that I will not cross.”

On the bench every game and ready to throw in consecutive games.

Upon entering the New Year, before the start of training camp to prepare for spring league games, Sawamura made a decision. He committed himself to acting as the team's ace and being ready to throw in consecutive games.

Until last fall, if his ace pitcher threw in the first game of a series, Coach Takahashi removed the pitcher from the bench for the second game. Coach Takahashi was worried that he might be compelled to use his ace when the pitcher was on the bench. The coach felt concerned about fatigue and injuries that might befall his ace pitcher if asked to pitch in three consecutive games.

Sawamura's decision shows his strong commitment to achieving the goal of capturing a division title and winning a national championship. Spring league games will begin soon. Our visits to Jingu Stadium will be filled with even higher expectations for the performance of pitcher Sawamura as well as victory for Chuo University.

(Student Reporter: Miyuki Nozaki; 3rd year student in the Faculty of Law)