NAGOYA – Obviously, all eyes are on the remaining two teams as they vie for the 2011 Japan Series titles. That makes this a different stage than any other.
But at the same time, it’s the same ballgame and it’s nothing different than any other game. Winning is always the goal.
Hawks outfielder Hitoshi Tamura had forgotten that simple formula and tried to do too much this fall.
On Monday, an off-day, he had a chance to reflect on this subject.
“Manager (Koji) Akiyama came up to me during yesterday’s practice and said, ‘You’re thinking too many things and too seriously,’ ” Tamura revealed after Fukuoka Softbank’s 4-2 victory over the Chunichi Dragons in Tuesday’s Game 3 of the Japan Series at Nagoya Dome.
“And he told me this: ‘You go out there to have more fun.’ “
Tamura broke a 3-for-21 postseason slump with a three-hit, two-RBI performance in Game 3.
“I’d been thinking too much on what kind of pitches would be thrown to me,” Tamura said. “But today I was going to aggressively swing at gopher pitches.”
The simple approach paid off. Tamura bashed Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson’s fastball that came in the middle of the strike zone without hesitation for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. That put the Hawks up 3-0 in a game that was a tense battle until it ended.
“That ball flied well for sure,” Tamura said of his homer. “It actually surprised me, too.”
And, in fact, the long ball meant something to Tamura personally because Dragons skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai saw it from the opposing dugout.
Ochiai, who retired as a player at the end of the 1998 season, was invited by the Yokohama BayStars as a special guest batting coach during the 2001 spring training camp. Tamura, who wasn’t a starter on the Central League club then, learned a lot from the three-time former Triple Crown winner and later became a star in his own right, hitting more than 30 homers in 2004 (40) and 2005 (31).
“Ochiai-san made my batting,” said Tamura, who moved to Softbank in 2007 via a trade. “I’m pleased to have hit the home run in front of him.”
Speaking of Tamura’s poor productivity until Game 3, Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh supported the right-handed hitter, saying that you can’t hit in every single game.
“But we’re relieved he had a good result,” Oh said. “We certainly have high expectations for him.”