In the Eyes of Others (Part 2): Tsuyoshi Shinjo
Tsuyoshi Shinjo 新庄剛志, Retired Professional Baseball Player*
I believe the first time I met Masha-nii (ましゃにぃ) was in December 2000. I was already his fan at that time. “So he comes from Kyushu like me….” That discovery left me a deep impression. There are very few men whom I would consider as handsome, other than Masha-nii. I find him truly charismatic.
Once, a friend told me: “Fukuyama-san talked about Tsuyoshi in his Osaka concert.” After I heard that, I wanted to go see his concert at once, so I asked a favour of someone I know and was finally able to meet him in the Osaka-jo Hall. I gave him a baseball uniform as a present and he immediately put it on for the encore! I couldn’t believe it, I was overjoyed! After that, we became friends. Perhaps it was because we both came from Kyushu and that he was like a respected big brother to me.
The Masha-nii that I know, is very open-minded and has a great heart. When I was still at Nippon-Ham (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters)*, Masha-nii would go all the way to Hokkaido to watch my games. We had gone to karaoke with everyone after a game, and, of course, he’d received lots of requests to “sing this song, please…” . He agreed to it without hesitation and ended up having to sing around 10 of his own songs. If it had been me, and someone at the batting center asked me to bat for them to see, I wouldn’t be so quick to say yes.
On another occasion, at the end of one of his concerts, I thought he would be exhausted, so I just emailed him to let him know that I was going home. Instead he replied, “I want to see you, come over to the Backstage!” I once mentioned that I liked liquor, he remembered it and came with a bottle of liquor the next time we met for snooker. In this aspect, he was characteristic of the spirit of Kyushu men.
I consult with him in a lot of matters. Although we are in totally different fields of work, he would frequently teach me how to attract more fans; how to associate with other people, etc. Besides these……., ah, there are also private matters which I cannot disclose!
Of course, I like Masha-nii the artist, too! Even upto now, I have almost never attended events like concerts, but I have been to 4 of Masha-nii’s concerts already! Even the opening music of my games are often Masha-nii’s songs. I especially remember the time with “Sakurazaka”. I was looking for a slower song, but just couldn’t find the right one. It was then that I heard “Sakurazaka”, and I was very moved by it. I’m the type of player who usually gets too carried away in a game. Listening to Masha-nii’s songs often helps me to calm down before I bat.
My favourite song? Oh it’s so hard to have to choose just one…..I guess it should be “Squall”. When I was negotiating my FA terms ** with the Hanshin Tigers, I was always listening to this song in the car. “Squall” led me to think: “Do I really want to stay put here?” It gave me a push in the right direction and it would not be an exaggeration to say that “this song was a major factor that helped me to make up my mind to go to the States and challenge myself.”
Lately, when we go out drinking, I’ve been saying that “I really want to go on a holiday somewhere!” Since I’ve been playing baseball all this time, I don’t have many opportunities to get away for pleasure, and we’ve both been really busy…..so, if we can just go on a trip somewhere, like Africa, it would be wonderful! Masha-nii~~, please make some time for me!
~ The End ~
~ Magazine “anan”, Issue no. 1576 (2006.09.05) ~
* Tsuyoshi Shinjo is a well-known and well-loved professional baseball player in Japan. His professional carreer started in 1990 and he retired in 2006. Between 2000-3, he played for Major League Baseball’s New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, and in 2002 became the first Japan-born player to play in the World Series. In his final season, he helped to bring the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to their first Japan Series victory since 1962, winning the championship in his final game.
** FA = Free Agent, i.e. players have the right to switch teams. Negotiations are often lengthy because of conflicting interests of the 2 parties involved and would include compensation payments (by the player/new team to the old team) among other things.
I remember having watched an entertainment show about Tsuyoshi Shingo’s earlier life. In the programme, they talked about why Tsuyoshi chose to join the Hokkaido Nippon Ham fighters, amid all the invitations he received upon his return from Major Leaugue baseball in the US. At that time, the attendance rate for games played in the Hokkaido Dome was very low. He was determined to fill up the Dome with baseball spectators within a short time….in the process of doing so, he encountered a lot of setbacks and difficulties. It was far from the glamour visible on the outside. Beneath his dazzling smile, there were laughter and tears, it was very touching. To encourage more people to watch baseball, he showed us his persistence and perseverance. He’s a bit like Masha, a true Kyushu man!
Last night, when I took out his article in my Japanese class, my teacher immediately asked to read it. He said that Shinjo-san has a very high standing in the hearts of the Japanese people, and is loved by many. He retired from professional baseball on 2006.10.26 and on that last game, Masha was there too, to take pictures of Shinjo-san. Masha mentioned it in his radio programme before.