Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
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Daisuke Ikenaga Part2
Playing manager of French baseball team
We bring you the interview of Daisuke Ikenaga, a playing manager of the French baseball team called “Savigny Lions”. Now we tell you his activities as a bridge between Japan and France.
– Daisuke Ikenaga –
Born in Tokyo in 1980. He started playing the baseball in 5th grade. After he graduated university, he worked part-time and took team tryout tests. Moved to the US in 2005 he joined a team called “Japan Samurai Bears” there. After the US, he played in Germany, Australia, etc and went to France. He was in charge of the playing manager of a farm team of “Savigny Lions” in the first year in France and will be a playing manager of the first team of Savigny Lions in the season of 2012. Also he will be the assistant coach of the French national team in 2012. (As of Feb. 7, 2012)
（Continued from Part1）
Bringing French baseball players to Japan
Japanese independent baseball leagues such as Shikoku Island League seem to have taken root in this country. Frederic Hanvi and Felix Brown, French baseball players, will join the team called Gunma Diamond Pegasus as an indication of their progress.
They are the first French players who signed contracts with a Japanese baseball team. European baseball website featured their joining. I believe they’ll be members of the French national team for WBC 2012. That’s a historic achievement for French baseball and I connected them with the Diamond Pegasus. It means I worked on it as an agent. I took them all over the country in a car for tryouts, translation, paperwork and contract talks… I was in charge of all of them. I’d never imagined that I would take care of other people.
I think you take something, you give something back. It’s natural. It’s like circular slit. You drop something into the water and it cases a ripple. Then a ripple bounces off the wall and returns to it’s origin. I would like to be generous enough to contribute to others. Many people have given me help a lot since I started playing baseball. So now it’s my turn. I want to support people as much as possible as an assistant coach of the French national team.
“French””Baseball”… are words that conjure up an image of Yoshio Yoshida, who led the Hanshin Tigers to a championship in 1985. He managed the French national team from 1989 until 1995. Mr. Yoshida used to be a shortstop and I’m a shortstop, too. But I was surprised at his performance when I watched it on YouTube. It was much, much more excellent than mine is. He threw a ball in the same breath as he caught it.
Mr. Yoshida is an honorary member of the French Baseball & Softball Federation (*In French; Fédération Française de Baseball et Softball, FFBS). He still visits France every year. Everybody who played baseball in France knows him. He had a major impact on French baseball, so it’s like Japanese baseball. On the other hand, the baseball in other European countries is like the American one.
I’ve met him 3 or 4 times so far. French players can join the Japanese team, they can attend its practice; those are gifts from Mr. Yoshida. He built a foundation for teaching baseball in France.
Little did I dream that I would come to Europe as a baseball player. I can come into contact with various kinds of cultures in France. Also I can learn the different kind of baseball from Japanese one. All of those experiences are very, very precious to me.
I used to tour all over Japan when I dropped out of baseball. My current situation is smaller to it. Now I think that solo travel made me want to play baseball in many places.
Making dream come true in Japan and the world
Next season I’ll be a playing manager of Savigny Lions so I’ll be able to be in charge of its personnel planning. The owner of my team used to be an assistant coach of the French national team when Mr. Yoshida was managing it. So he loves Japan very much and he said, “I decided that all of our foreign players will be Japanese”. The main team and farm can hire up to four foreign players in total. So I appointed a Japanese person to be the next manager of its farm. A tough assignment will be given to him because I really improved the team’s performance and the team leaders will expect that it improves more.
I hope French baseball would be the place to go for Japanese players who got laid off from Japanese professional league. Actually some people are interested in playing there. But French baseball is not professionalized yet. Foreign players including me signed up with the team as professionals exceptionally. So we have to strengthen its organizational structures and improve its finance and equipment more in order to accept the offers from professional Japanese players. Also attracting large crowds is important because only players’ families come and watch the game in the countryside.
We’ll have the European Cup and go to the WBC for the first time. It was decided that I’ll be a first base coach for the European Cup which will be held in September 2012. I’m happy with that but if possible, I want to work for WBC as a batting-practice pitcher or something else and see how strong Holland or Italy is.
And if French team play against Japan in WBC elimination and I’m in action as a first base coach or something, Japanese people who watch the TV will be really surprised, like “Who’s that guy?”. Yes, I want to hear comments like that.
There are still many unknown parts in European baseball. As for French baseball, we can meet with great players on the Caribbean Islands. So there’s still considerable room for its growth, which means I can do a lot more things for French baseball. It’s like a niche business. I want to introduce European players to Japanese ones, or I want to introduce Japanese players to European ones. In order to realize that, I want to operate a baseball team.
And after that, I hope I can teach baseball to local children. I want to give things I learn back to home.
What is baseball to you?
It’s like a dictionary which nurtures my spirit.
You can learn a lot from baseball. Especially I deeply thought about ties or bonds among people because of the 3.11 Earthquake. I realized that we cannot live alone and we cannot win the game alone. Taking care of your teammates, swinging from joy to sorrow… you can feel bonds at these moments.
We often compare our lives to baseball. “Sacrifice bunt in your life”… oh, that’s pretty good. “Double play in your life”… that sucks! Because it’s easy to liken baseball to human life because they are similar to each other.
And people in the world can connect with each other by playing catch. You can communicate with the world with one ball if you want. I believe conflicts can be resolved with a ball.
We are (B)all one!
Savigny Lions (French); http://www.savignybaseball.com/