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Samurai Japan Interview Vol. 13 Interview with 18U National Team Captain Ryoya Kurihara


Samurai Japan Interview Vol. 13 Interview with 18U National Team Captain Ryoya Kurihara

Representing Japan - Responsibility and Self Awareness

──First of all, when did you hear that you'd been chosen to represent Japan?

I think it was around August 20, I heard from the manager of my team, Tadayoshi Kawamura(Harue Kogyo).

──What was your frame of mind at that time?

We had been defeated in our first game in the Fukui Prefecture summer tournament and I hadn't played well. Because of that on hearing the news I first thought, "I wonder if I'm good enough?" I mostly felt doubt and uneasiness.

──Were you soon able to adjust your feelings?

After that I thought, "I've been chosen so I'll do it!" I also felt grateful for having been chosen and thought that when playing for Japan I had to firmly keep in mind my responsibility and be self aware. After that I concentrated completely on practice.

Perfect mutual understanding between players

──It's been several days since training camp started in Japan on August 26. Were the players soon able to let their guards down?

Yes. I met almost all the players for the first time here so at first I felt uneasy, but they've all played high school baseball like I have. Each of the players has been actively communicating so we've become quite familiar with each other.

──Kurihara, you played at Koshien as an 11th grader in the spring invitational tournament. Many of the team members assembled here now have played in the summer Koshien tournament.

To me it's amazing to see players right in front of me who were just recently competing at Koshien. Though, when I tried speaking to them they all turned out to be cheerful and good guys. There was nothing to worry about.

With team unity we will get results

──After the press conference on August 26 you immediately started practice on the Kinki University field. At that time during fielding practice you called out to Kazuma Okamoto(Chiben Academy), "Okamoto, move your legs!" Also, while throwing and catching the ball he responded, "Kurihara!" to you in a kind of strange duet.

Those are the kinds of things that happen, but that is also a form of communication.

──As captain, how are you going to bring the team together?

We've brought together a group of players with a high degree of skill so I'm not sure it's a matter of me bringing them together or leading them in the way I play. Actually, I think first of all the most important thing is for the team to come together as a unit. If that happens then I think we can get some good results. That's why I want to talk to all the players about many things.

Subtle techniques and being connected - That's Japanese baseball

──Representing the players as captain, please tell us about the character of the team this year.

We certainly aren't quiet. We've just met each other but it's already quite noisy. I think we can come together.

──What style of baseball do you think it will be?

The bats have been changed from metal to wood so I don't think we'll be able to hit as far. We'll have to use things like bunting and other delicate techniques. Rather than hitting far we have to hit between fielders and also have close connections with each other and play a subtle type of baseball. I think this is not just our team but what Japanese baseball is.

──In international tournaments you have to deal with things like wooden bats and also play in a foreign country with an environment that you aren't used to. How are you going to deal with those things?

This will be a new experience so I don't really have a grip on how the games will proceed yet. There will only be a short amount of time but I think we should get used to the actual atmosphere of the field in Thailand and be consistent in playing our type of baseball.

──What do you mean by your type of baseball?

Bringing out the best characteristics and performance from each of us. That's what we can do now.

Representing Japan is more important than playing at Koshien

──How aware are you of the Asian teams you'll be playing against?

I've received and read materials about past international tournaments. Past generations of Japanese national high school representatives have always had tough matches against South Korea and Taiwan so my impression is that they are strong. That's where we have to win though.

──The Japanese baseball world is connected from 12U to the Top National Team by Samurai Japan. What do you think about that?

We play in the same uniforms that the professionals wear. So, just being aware of that makes us feel the responsibility of carrying Japan. I think it's important for each one of us to be very conscious of that fact. If we just casually go to Thailand and play a game we shouldn't be called Samurai Japan. I want us to get good results.

──Which do you think carries a heavier burden, appearing at Koshien or playing as a representative of Japan?

When I was practicing to play at Koshien I felt strongly that I wanted to make it there. However, this time it's not just playing for our team but I feel that I'm representing all of Japan. The number of people involved is different. I feel that playing for Japan is a heavier responsibility.

──How confident are you all?

We're confident. I saw that at the domestic training camp. When we come back people will shout "Asia!"



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