We spoke to Coach Yoshitaka Katori, who will be leading the team as Samurai Japan 15U Coach in the "2nd IBAF 15U Baseball World Cup" held in Mexico from July 31st-August 10th (local time), about his feelings regarding his inauguration, and his enthusiasm for the competition.
----How were the players after the first day of the training camp?
They all had an awareness that they were chosen as representatives, and they played like they'd been training well up to this day. This time, 15 out of our 20 players are pitchers, so I hope they can all throw, defend, and get out into the game and play hard.
----This is your second time following the "15U Asia Challenge Match" that you've served as coach for the junior high generation, but it will be the first time Japan is entering the World Cup in the 15U division. Can you tell us about how you feel about being appointed as 15U coach once again?
If I have the chance to make use of my own experience, I want to keep on using it in team-building. But to the players, this is still just a waypoint. There is more "above" us, like the 18U and 21U. I want them to have experiences that they can use in those times.
It's about how well they can use these experiences in the next stage. I think it's important that they tell their experiences to their teammates, and keep spreading out.
That's why I want to use my experience in my coaching, so that I can help them become players like that.
----There is a chance that the 15U players will go on to participate in a future WBC, or the Olympics if they bring baseball back. It must be exciting to raise the players that are participating in this competition to become the pillars of Japanese baseball.
It's very exciting. I feel that if the players think of this place as the "origin" from which they will keep growing, they'll go on to grow even further.
I want them to keep on playing baseball with the awareness of a player representing Japan, even when they enter high school, and I would be very happy if this mindset could be planted in them through this competition.
----So, what do you think is important for Japan in order to win an international competition?
The physique and speed of each of our players is completely different from, say, South and Central American baseball players. But baseball is a team sport, not an individual sport, so if everyone is unified, we can do something great. That's how we can win.
That's why I want to bring this out, and above else, let the players realize through experience that "baseball differs from country to country".
I want them to rejoice in victories, be chagrined in defeat, and eventually become a good team.
----Have you already been thinking about a strategy for each country?
That will wait till after we get there. We'll do what we can on a case-by-case basis. The players are all preparing for this, and in this training camp, we want to assess the players' characteristics and habits, and approach the games.
I want the team as a whole to overcome all their games. That's how I feel.