Some things to know about Shintaro Fujinami

"Fuji, the person on this team who distrusts Fuji the least is yourself." What was said at A's touched his heart. Fujinami said so on a local television station after completing his first season in MLB.

When it's good, it's overwhelming, and when it's bad, the ball flies in a ridiculous direction. Shintaro Fujinami is a mysterious player. I hope you understand that he is a player with a slightly special background among players from Japan.

When Shintaro Fujinami was in high school, he fascinated all over Japan with his overwhelming power. In the United States, only the scene where Ohtani hit a home run from him is taken up, but it was Fujinami's team that won the game. It is a famous story that Ohtani cut out a newspaper article about Fujinami and pasted it in his room in the dormitory to make it a source of inspiration for himself. Fujinami won consecutive spring and summer championships in high school tournaments, attracting attention from all over Japan. 

Fujinami and Ohtani were drafted in the same year, and Fujinami went to Hanshin and Ohtani joined Nippon Ham. I have to explain about the team called Hanshin here. Hanshin is a baseball team with a long history and many enthusiastic fans. There are major newspapers that cover by legitimate means, but there are also several newspaper companies that decorate the magazine with scandalous articles (whether it is true or not) and stimulate the desire to buy, and those reporters are attached to the players from morning to night.

He became a popular player for the Hanshin Tigers immediately after graduating from high school. Fans were excited about the young player's performance, and in response, the team continued to overuse him without a long-term vision. In response to expectations, Fujinami struck out 138 IP and 126 strikeouts at the age of 19, 163 IP and 172 strikeouts at the age of 20, 199 IP and 221 strikeouts at the age of 21,and he took the title of strikeout. He hurt his shoulder due to fatigue, but he was a popular pitcher, so Hanshin made him throw 169 times the following year. His condition went down. At the same time, as his body changedfrom a young body to an adult's body, he became unable to control his body properly. The number of walks increased, and the number of wild pitches also increased.The Hanshin team was not able to coach him well, and he ended up going to the second team in confusion.

A characteristic of Japanese people is that they choose to improve their weaknesses rather than develop their strengths. Even if that means losing some of its strengths. First, the team had him change his pitching form. After that, the form continued to be manipulated many times, and it became unclear what was the right thing to do.

The Hanshin baseball team was unable to provide any systematic guidance on how to coach Fujinami. Instead, he received mixed advice. Each of the older players tried to impose their old ways of doing things on him.There was also unscientific advice such as “Just keep running without thinking about anything," ”Train beyond your limits until your body screams." and “You should go to a temple for spiritual training." It was impractical to blindly accept all the advice, so he continued his training, confused and selective.That his choice was correct is evidenced by the fact that so far there have been no major injuries to the elbow. Despite his efforts, it did not lead to stable improvement in control.It was the media that made Fujinami even more distressed as he struggled with the lack of results. Some media criticized him. The sight of Fujinami, once a popular athlete, in a long slump was a convenient opportunity for the sleazy media. This is because fans who were dissatisfied with Hanshin's inability to win liked to vent their anger by reading articles with negative comments. It didn't matter whether it was true or not. Some media outlets continued to make fun of Fujinami by intentionally distorting his actions and statements, such as ”Fujinami is a lazy guy who hates practicing.'' and “He's a  big idiot who doesn't listen to important advice." The team also recognizes that they were unable to protect Fujinami from malicious media.
Even during those long, dark days, his potential was recognized and he continued to be approached by other teams and MLB agents who wanted to develop his talent. However, Fujinami was a popular player representing Hanshin for a time, so Hanshin did not accept the offer.

He has the personality of wanting to live up to the expectations of those around him, and up until that point he had been working in line with Hanshin's wishes. He continued to be called up to the first team only when there was a shortage of relief pitchers.But as he approached his 30s, he finally made a decision. "Shintaro Fujinami's life is meant to satisfy Shintaro Fujinami." He hadn't forgotten what Hideo Nomo told him in 2018. "You shouldn't be here, you should try your pitching in the MLB." He came to MLB without completely believing in himself. And a year passed, and he finally began to understand how extraordinary his powers were.

If he had been on a team that coached him from a long-term perspective, rather than a team that overworked young players for the sake of the team's popularity, wouldn't he have become a player who overwhelms others by now? If he had become a professional baseball player in the era when scientific approach training methods were introduced in Japan, how far would his results have improved? If he had joined a team other than Hanshin, he wouldn't have been targeted by the media so relentlessly, and wouldn't he have been able to play baseball in a more stable mood?
 When some Japanese people see him pitching well in the MLB, they feel some kind of guilt. Originally, he should have been able to develop his talent even more. And they watch his pitches with a prayerful feeling. Throw with confidence, you're great!


April 15, 2024

Shouldn't the Mets learn from the past? Let Fujinami go to AAA, let him change his pitching form, let him throw once in a while and see what happens.The Hanshin Tigers let him rot slowly for 5 long years like that. Mets, you started doing it , please be responsible for making him better until the end. If the Mets can't do that, at least get him back to last year's level.