Last night, I was watching the only Pro Baseball game in Japan that wasn’t rained out. My old underdog favorite Hiroshima Carp lost to the newly revitalized Yomiuri Giants and their superb, three-hit shutout pitching of Jeremy Powell. I was shocked to see that the super-traditional Carp had a foreign manager, former Carp player Marty Brown. The funniest part of the game for me was watching Brown’s translator while Brown was flashing signs to his outfield after the Giants broke the game open with a series of hits in the 7th inning. Brown’s translator was repeating, sign for sign, what his manager was signing. That surely must be the easiest translation task one could ask for.
It sounds like Brown has a much harder job, judging from a recent report by Jim Allen in the Daily Yomiuri.
Marty Brown is a firm believer in tradition, and traditionally no team has exerted more energy in practice than the Hiroshima Carp. Yet after finishing fifth or worse for four straight seasons, the fish lured their former outfielder back to Hiroshima Citizens Stadium to turn that energy into results….
The club’s spring training camp was like going to a living history museum, an homage to pro baseball’s past. Other clubs go through pre-programmed drills in small groups until noon when individuals go off to work on specific skills, but Hiroshima’s habit was old-school regimentation–working in groups from morning to late afternoon.
“Something had to be changed and I think it took a lot of guts to hire me to do this job, this being Hiroshima and [me] a foreign manager,” Brown said. “I respect that. I think it is good that I played in Hiroshima and I know the city and I still have a lot of friends there….
Brown has instructed all the players to plan their own skill workouts–instead of simply following programs planned out by coaches–and to have a focus and rationale for their work.
“Until now, the Carp have had very tough workouts. Just amazing,” said Arai. “But Marty has said we’ll finish group workouts earlier … [and] with the time remaining, players should … work individually on their weak points.”
This is nothing new in Japan.
The Chunichi Dragons won the CL in 2002 after rookie manager Hiromitsu Ochiai told veteran players to plan their own spring routines. But for the tradition-bound Carp this was a radical departure.
“Up to now, camp had the feeling of, ‘Do this.’ Now it is, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s really a significant difference,” Arai said.
Asked if players could confidently do their own thing after years of conformity, Arai insisted it was no problem.
“Essentially, action must originate with a player. When coaches are telling you ‘do it, do it,’ it is about their expectations,” Arai said. “But every action depends on the ability of the player, himself.
“Marty said, ‘You are professionals and I expect you to take responsibility.’ To take responsibility and think for yourself, and turn that into action, that is part of being a professional ball player.”