SAPPORO — Fighters general manager Shigeru Takada was wandering around the dugout and backstage and could hardly contain his jitters before the game.
Three consecutive victories against the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Series had put Hokkaido Nippon Ham one win shy of winning the first NPB championships since 1962.
And Takada was a bag of nerves.
“You don’t get this opportunity very often,” Takada said before Game 5 at Sapporo Dome on Thursday. “So you want to win when you can.”
But Takada warned that the same thing can be applied to Chunichi, which has not won an NPB championship title since 1954.
“It’s been 52 years for them. So if they miss it this year, you never know when the next will be,” the 61-year-old former Yomiuri Giants outfielder said.
Takada managed the Fighters for four years from 1985. But he could not lead the team to a pennant as they finished fifth for the first two seasons and ended up in the third place in both of the latter two years.
So he couldn’t believe where the team is right now.
Asked about his emotions if the team won the Japan Series title by taking Thursday’s game, an honest Takada said, “I’m feeling the same way as the fans. There is really nothing we can do but root.”
Takada took over the general manager job in 2005 and shaped the current team by acquiring talents like Yu Darvish and Tomoya Yagi through drafts and Atsunori Inaba via free agency.
Takada acknowledged that there is not much difference between the Fighters and Dragons in terms of ability.
There difference lies outside the fences, he says.
“We’ve got great fans, who cheer us and push us forward,” he said.
Takada was part of the Giants’ team of the 1970s who won nine straight championships, and has many years of coaching experience.
But before Thursday night’s game, as he paced nervously around, Takada could have been mistaken for any of the thousands of Fighters’ fans hoping it was the night they won the Japan Series.