‘Sensei’. It’s a word that describes a person who teaches and guides someone. Usually, it’s someone older than you.
Outfielder Ahn Kwon-soo, 30, who has been performing well for the Lotte Giants this season, learned his solid hitting technique from an amateur player two years his junior. After finishing the 2021 season with the Doosan Bears, Ahn searched online for ways to improve his hitting and came across Hikaru Kusakabe, 27, who was playing for Japanese unemployment team NTT Nishinihon when he shared his hitting theory on Instagram.먹튀검증
A right-handed hitter, Kusakabe was posting videos of batting practice from the left side of the plate when he was injured in his right knee. Kusakabe’s theory is that you can hit from the left side of the plate with less power than the right side, but with a solid swing mechanic. Ahn Kwon-soo agreed with Kusakabe’s theory and asked for guidance via direct message (DM).
“For the two seasons I played for Doosan, I was changing my batting form every day, trying to figure out how to hit better,” he said. “I sent Kusakabe a video of my batting and he checked it out. He suggested that I use the centre of gravity of the bat rather than my arms, and that I swing with the feeling of ‘the ball hitting the bat without even realising it’.” Ahn and Kusakabe communicated with each other two to three times a week leading up to the start of the season. “The trajectory of my bat got better and I felt more confident that I could always hit a triple in a game,” Ahn said. In fact, Ahn maintained a triple-digit batting average in the first half of last season and has done so again this season.
Kusakabe, Ahn’s “teacher,” threw a curveball this year by leaving NTT Nippon. Players on unemployment teams run by large corporations often enter professional baseball through the draft, but even if they quit, they are guaranteed a stable life as coaches or office workers. In his late 20s, Kusakabe decided to play in the independent leagues with a clear goal and a sense of urgency to make it to the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). It is highly unusual for an unemployed player to play in an independent league.
“Kusakabe is a good hitter, defender, and baserunner, but it’s not easy for him to go pro because of his age,” said Takanori Okamura, 69, coach of the Gunma Diamond Pegasus in the independent league. “In addition to ability, it’s also important to make an impression in front of scouts,” added Takanori, who was a long-time Seibu Lions scout who played for the same unemployment team as Kusakabe before turning pro. Okamura says that his home run at the 1980 World Championships as an amateur was a big draw for professional scouts. Interestingly, the pitcher he hit that home run against was Choi Dong-won of the Korean National Team.
Ahn wants Kusakabe’s help during the season. “He has the skills to hit home runs if his elbow doesn’t hurt,” Kusakabe said of Ahn.
If you always want to improve, you may find the right teacher at some point. This is the story of Ahn and Kusakabe.