Iwate/Kanegasaki Little Senior led by coach Toru Otani… Players are free to pursue further education
Kanegasaki Little Senior, located in the town of Kanegasaki in the inland area of Iwate Prefecture, has 55 players this year, making it one of the teams with the largest number of members among junior high school baseball clubs in the prefecture. Looking at the graduates’ destinations, most of them went to prefectural high schools and private high schools within the prefecture, although in the past some players went on to private high schools outside the prefecture. Toru Otani, the father of Shohei Otani and the team’s manager, says:
“My idea is to go to the high school you like and play baseball at the high school you want to play at.”
Looking at the trends so far, it is true that many players go on to Hanamaki Higashi High School, which is a strong private school in the prefecture. Asahi Tashiro and Keita Miyazawa (both currently at the University of Tsukuba) were active as main players when participating in the spring selection tournament in 2022, Riku Kumagai, a member of the top 8 summer Koshien tournament this year, and Riku Kumagai, who attracted attention as a rare slugger. Rintaro Sasaki and the grade one grade below him, including his left-hander Riku Kasai, are from Kanegasaki Little Senior. With their own goals and objectives, they entered Hanamaki Higashi High School.
However, the destination of further education is entirely up to the individual. The team’s policy is to prioritize each decision and respect the wishes of the players.
The idea that the choice of college is “free” has remained unchanged since the team was founded in 2014. For example, it would be natural for a player with high aspirations and high technical ability to seek out high school baseball at a higher level. However, even though they played in a hardball club during their junior high school days, not all players have great physical ability.
In short, each person has a different awareness of baseball, and they choose a high school based on their different views on baseball, such as “I want to play baseball in this kind of environment,” “I want to continue playing baseball that I like in my hometown,” and “I want to play baseball with my friends.” do. Director Otani says:
“If he wants to continue playing baseball, I want him to do it wherever he likes. His career path will be determined by consulting with him and his parents.”
If I don’t go to Kurosawajiri… “Everything happens by chance”
Coach Otani graduated from his hometown, Iwate Prefectural Kurosawajiri High School (hereinafter referred to as “Kuroko”), and has a professional baseball career where he played for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Yokohama, an adult baseball team. When choosing a high school, he initially planned to go to a private high school in the prefecture and continue playing baseball, but in the end he went to Kuroko.
“If I hadn’t gone to Kuroko, I don’t think I would have played for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Yokohama, and Shohei wouldn’t have been born either. It all just happened by chance…In the end, I thought, ‘I’m glad I went to this high school.’ That’s something you only understand later on.At that time, it’s hard to understand.However, I think that choosing a high school is a crossroads in life.”
Based on his own experience, Coach Otani has always believed that it is important for students to “think about it themselves and choose where to go to college,” rather than forcing them to do so.