November 10, 2020
Some sports teams come under the spotlight for their losses, even though that is obviously not the intention of the players.
In the autumn session of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League games, which ended on Nov. 8, the University of Tokyo's baseball team extended its losing streak to 56, with some ties in between.
Although this fell way short of the record 94 consecutive losses set in the past, the team from the next session will not have a single member who has ever experienced a win.
Not that the team didn't try to do better.
This year, it was managed by Takashi Ide, 76, the first University of Tokyo alum ever drafted by a professional club, the Chunichi Dragons, and had a successful career there.
When Ide assumed this task, he recalled being surprised by the high caliber of the team members.
"Unlike when I was a student, my players knew a lot about baseball, and they had built up their basic physical strength through scientific training," he said. "And their practice sessions, led mainly by student coaches, were quite effective. But they simply couldn't win."
With other teams, however, even their second- and third-tier pitchers could throw pitches at speeds nearly 150 kph. The level of the entire league had risen beyond what the University of Tokyo team had attained through evolution.
This situation ultimately owes to the extra-high hurdle of the entrance exams students must clear to enter the University of Tokyo.
Compared to other universities that admit candidates based on recommendations, about 60 percent of the University of Tokyo's 100 or so baseball team members failed to pass the entrance exam at least once.
But the players never blame this tough "fate" for their defeats, nor do they lose their pride.
I don't mean to stress the "purity" of school sports, but the graciousness of these students is certainly a most welcome contrast to the conduct of the leader of a certain superpower who is apparently incapable of being a good loser.
If the University of Tokyo baseball team were to ever reach a breakthrough, what would that be?
"There is no magic formula," said Ide. "The only way to go is to keep making efforts, no matter how small."
This is a team that examines itself critically, works on correcting deficits and never gives up. Its identity adds a very special charm to the league.
（Photo: University of Tokyo baseball team manager Takashi Ide, center, attends a training session with his players in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward in November 2019. ）