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SAMURAI JAPAN Interview

Samurai Japan Interview Vol.14 Interviews with Women's National Team players Kawabata, Shimura and Rokkaku

8/30/2014Women's

Samurai Japan Interview Vol.14 Interviews with Women's National Team players Kawabata, Shimura and Rokkaku

Akiko Shimura(Asahi Trust)

Looking toward the 6th IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup 2014 -Tournament in Miyazaki, Akiko Shimura(Asahi Trust) leads the Women's National Team as captain. We asked her about her experiences in the World Cup up until now and about her ambitions for this year's tournament.

----Shimura, for you this will be your fourth appearance in the World Cup. This year it will be held in Japan, are you excited about the tournament?

As the tournament gets closer I get more and more excited! With that of course I also feel pressure, though I accept it and practice with the feeling that I will play that way as well.

----As captain at the last tournament and also this time as well, you are urging the women's team on. What kind of captain do you think you want to be?

Manager Okura told me that I should just play as I normally do so I'm not too conscious of my role as captain. There are a lot of players around me who urge me on so I'm able to lean on them too and that's a good thing. Also, while continuing to play well I keep an eye on the team.

----When you say you can lean on the other players, does that mean while dealing with things yourself there are also many other players who are very conscious of these issues?

Yes, that's right. There are many players who are self aware while practicing, so I don't need to give them any special instructions. Vice captain Nakashima and Rokkaku are both players who reliably urge others along so, putting our strength together, we want to build a strong team.

----In international tournaments, with such evenly matched opponents one mistake can mean losing. If you do make a mistake during a game, what are your thoughts on how you would go about recovering?

Of course making mistakes is inevitable. I think it's important to know how to recover as a group. It's critical that a mistake is not just one person's mistake but something all need to react to and make up for in other areas. Doing that is very much connected to winning.

----So, how are you going to compete against powerhouses like the United States and Canada?

The United States and Canada are our rivals but my thinking is that it's not a question of having to do this or that because we're up against a strong country. I think whoever we are up against, whatever the situation, if we play our kind of baseball then that's good.

----Finally, with a fourth straight victory on the line, please give us some encouragement for the upcoming tournament!

First of all, I'm very grateful to be a member of Samurai Japan for this tournament. I want to show that feeling in my playing. It's important to win and by doing so we can repay the kindness of everyone who has supported women's baseball. Also, because the tournament will be held in Japan, it's a great chance to make women's baseball more popular. We definitely want to win our fourth straight tournament and make many baseball fans aware of women's baseball.

Yuki Kawabata(Astraia)

We talked with Yuki Kawabata (Astraia), the preeminent batter in the world of women's professional baseball, and heard about her experiences in the last tournament and her ambitions for the next tournament, where a fourth straight victory is on the line.

----Kawabata, this will be your second World Cup. What thoughts did you have as you took up the challenge of playing in the previous tournament?

The last tournament was the first in which Japanese professional women baseball players were competing on the National Team. Up until then we had won twice in a row, so with pros on the team, I thought we certainly couldn't allow ourselves to be defeated. There was the pressure to win our third straight tournament, the pressure that we had to win with women professional players on the team and also the uneasiness of playing in my first tournament outside Japan. There were a lot of thoughts in my mind but the one that loomed largest was to achieve a three-peat.

----At the 6th tournament do you think you'll be able to feel more relaxed as you play than at the previous one?

Yes, I do. It will be held in Japan and I have the experience of playing in one tournament so I think I'll be able to settle down, prepare well and face the games.

----Since you played in your first international tournament have you felt like you have any problems?

I felt a big difference in the power of the other countries. The foreign players are able to put their strength to use in hitting. Strength itself isn't directly connected to winning or losing but as for myself I still feel uneasy about my lack of power in tournaments.

----Over the past two years what ways have you used to overcome and deal with that lack of power?

To tackle the issue, to increase my swing speed I've been using a heavy bat and that has built up my strength. Also, on the contrary, I've been practicing by swinging a light bat to increase my swing speed.

----In doing so in the past two years you've clearly gotten results by becoming the leading hitter in women's professional baseball and are rated as having a high degree of bat control. How have you actually improved your bat control?

First of all, I've been conscious of the importance of my form. The opposing pitchers try to disrupt my form but I focus on how I'm swinging the bat. I don't hit difficult pitches to just foul them and I hit the sweet balls soundly. I've been doing that in practice and I'm trying to be aware of that in games as well.

----I see. There is a lot of hope being placed on you, Kawabata, in terms of batting, but how do you think you can contribute to the national team as far as fielding goes?

Two years ago I was a designated hitter and didn't have a chance to play as a fielder. For this tournament manager Okura has told me I'm going to first base. First base is a position I don't usually play but not being used to it is not an excuse. So I'm going to work to be able to play at the position I've been assigned and reliably carry out my role.

----Last of all, please share your hopes for the tournament.

The tournament will be held in Japan so it's a chance to let everyone across Japan know about women's baseball. Of course our goal in to win our fourth straight tournament but if we can convey to even one more person the fascination of women's baseball then that will be a good thing.

Ayako Rokkaku(Samurai Japan)

Ayako Rokkaku(Samurai Japan) shined as the leading hitter and MVP at the 4th IBAF Women's World Cup. She was also chosen as the most valuable woman player in the IBAF in 2010. In addition, she became the best fielder at the 5th tournament so she has really shown results. At 23 she is taking on the duties of vice captain at the next tournament. We heard what she had to say.

----For you, Rokkaku, this will be your third World Cup and at this tournament you will also be taking on the duties of vice captain. How are you urging the team on?

When I first started playing I just tried to keep up with the older players but as the number of players younger than me has increased, I'm more and more in the position of being the backbone of the team. So I think my role is to skillfully bring together the older and younger players.

----At the press conference before the tournament you said that you were looking toward the games with determination and resolution.

Yes, that's right. More than anything else I like playing baseball so I want to have fun doing it. So I think the number one thing is to play with confidence and have fun even during games. In fielding I want to show the courage to take the first step and in batting I want to carry out the role of firmly backing up the team.

----At this tournament your fourth straight victory is on the line. Is there anything you keep in mind in order not to fail under the pressure?

I can't say that my anxiety and nervousness are at zero but I'm not the type of person who feels pressure. Even so, it's easy to get nervous if you're not confident in your playing. So, at the preparation stage I practice enough so that I can look toward games thinking to myself, "You've practiced this much, so things will work out well."

----At the 4th tournament you secured both MVP and leading batter. What mental attitude does it take to conquer the great pitchers of the world?

For me, I consider my on base ratio to be more important that my batting average. I'm usually first or second in the batting order so in the batter's box a hit is fine and four balls is fine too. In either case you are conscious that it connects to what follows. That's a big factor in becoming the leading batter.

----What way have you devised to keep up your on base percentage by getting to base with four mis-pitched balls, hits or other methods?

I always have the attitude that I must run at full speed and I also that getting on base because of walks is important. If you get walked you have made the pitcher throw those balls and it causes a lot of damage among the opposing team. Another thing is I practice cutting balls that are at the edge of the strike zone. Even if I am easily struck out, in either case I am particular about making the pitcher throw a large number of balls.

----Also, fielding at third, you were awarded the title of best fielder at the last tournament. Is there a secret to improving fielding?

You just have to spend a lot of time grinding it out. You have to smoothly field the fungos and also keep in mind that the game could be over if you make an error. In practice you have to always field each and every ball like it's the most important one of your career.

----Lastly, this will be your first time competing in the World Cup as a member of Samurai Japan. Please tell us your ambitions for the tournament.

The tournament will be held in Japan so I think it's a chance for Japanese to really get into the swing of things. In Japan it's easier for my family and friends to come and cheer us on. I'm very happy to be able to show my playing skills in front of everyone. Also, we definitely want to take this chance to win a fourth straight victory and spread women's baseball all over Japan.

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