On the 14th, when the Hanshin Tigers reached the top of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Central League for the first time in 18 years, the person who attracted the most attention was manager Akinobu Okada (岡田彰布, 66). This is because even when the team won the Central League championship in 2005, the head coach was Okada.
Hanshin won 4-3 in the home game against the Yomiuri Giants on the 14th, recording 80 wins, 44 losses, and 4 draws, and took first place in the league regardless of the results of the remaining 15 games. It was their 6th time at the top of the league, following 1962, 1964, 1985, 2003, and 2005.
Okada has a special relationship with Hanshin. This is because he is from Osaka, a Hanshin hometown, and most of his professional career was spent at Hanshin (1980-1993).
Okada, who took the helm at Hanshin again after 15 years after finishing last season, previously served as Hanshin coach from 2004 to 2008. They had high expectations in the 2005 Japan Series, but lost all four games to Chiba Lotte Marines of the Pacific League, to which Lee Seung-yeop (current Doosan coach) belonged. The total score of the four games was 3 to 44, which was a crushing defeat. Lee Seung-yeop received the Outstanding Player Award for his outstanding performance, including hitting three home runs (Games 1, 2, and 4) and scoring 5 RBIs, and with that momentum, he transferred to the Yomiuri Giants, the most prestigious club, the following year.
Okada stepped down as Hanshin head coach in 2008. Until the first half of that year, they were in first place, ahead of Yomiuri by 13 games, but suffered a reversal in the second half of the year, finishing in second place, and were also responsible for failing in the postseason. He again became the manager of Orix in the Pacific League in 2010, and showed motivation by recruiting Lee Dae-ho from Korea in 2012, his third year, but was fired in September due to poor performance that ranked last in the league.
Afterwards, he worked as a TV commentator and baseball critic, and returned to his parents’ home 10 years after leaving the field in September of last year. He even showed off his motivation, saying, “I plan to challenge for the championship next year (2023).” He stimulated the players’ will by referring to the championship as ‘that’ (アレ・are). This is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of Hanshin’s motto, ‘ARE’. It is said that it contains the meaning of having a clear goal, respecting baseball and seniors, and empowering each person. Empower is generally used to mean that a leader distributes authority and responsibility to organizational members.
Hanshin showed uneasiness after losing 4-7 in a practice game against the Korean WBC (World Baseball Classic) national team in March, ahead of the opening of the 2023 season. However, once the regular league started, they competed at the top and have been on a roll since August. Recently, they secured first place in the league with 11 consecutive wins. After taking office, Okada requested that the club “recognize walks and hits as equal contributions when evaluating players,” and this was carried out. It utilizes elements of American statistical analysis techniques.안전놀이터
Last year, the Hanshin batting lineup drew 358 walks (3rd in the league) in 143 games, but this year, they picked 452 walks (1st) in 128 games. The team’s average ERA (2.61) is the lowest among the 12 teams in the two major leagues.
Okada said, “It was the most enjoyable year of my baseball life. When we won in 2005, we knew the capabilities of our players and we fought as a complete team, but this year, everything was unknown. However, he made the team by working hard to strengthen defense,” he said of the win. Okada was the captain of the 1985 team when Hanshin won its only Japan Series. The remaining task is to challenge for a unified championship for the first time in 38 years.