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Uchikawa exhibits calm before WBC opener

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

After a four-year wait, the third edition of the World Baseball Classic has officially begun. Yet Seiichi Uchikawa kept his low-key manner one day before the two-time defending champions were set to face Brazil in Japan’s tournament opener.

Uchikawa’s reason was simple: He’d already put himself in a fighting mode, since Team Japan got to work on its tuneups in mid-February.

“To be quite honestly speaking, ever since we started playing warmup games, I’ve tried to take this seriously,” Uchikawa said after his team’s workout at the inside facility of Fukuoka Institute of Technology baseball team on Friday. “So because the tournament begins tomorrow, it won’t affect my mental itensity level.”

The Koji Yamamoto-led Japan team took on the Hiroshima Carp in its first warmup game on Feb. 17 in Miyazaki.

“I’m not going to get too excited now,” the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks hitter added. “I’m going to do what I usually do.”

After he said so, Uchikawa actually rephrased it a little, because it’s the WBC, where he obviously put on a national team jersey and faces unfamiliar players of other nations.

“Well, there are things that you want to do how you do regularly, and there are things that you can’t do how you do regularly,” Uchikawa said. “You’ve got to take good balance between them.”

But as far as how he approaches things at the plate, Uchikawa, one of only two hitters to win Central and Pacific League batting titles, will stick to his routines even in the WBC.

Asked how much scouting he would have on the Brazilian pitchers he’d face the next day at Fukuoka Dome, the 30-year-old shook his head saying he was not really caught up by the part.

“Personally, I don’t really prepare measures before I step up to the plate,” he said. “I only study what kind of pitches opposing pitchers have at best.

“You may be able to see them on the video and try to imagine how you’ll do against them, but to me, you can’t really feel anything until you get in the batter’s box. So I’ll apply myself to whoever’s on the mound from there.”

Uchikawa is making his second straight WBC. He already shined four years ago, hitting .333 with a homer and four RBIs in nine games for his country’s second consecutive championship run.

But Uchikawa thinks that this year’s a brand-new tournament for him, rejecting the notion that it’d be relatively easier for him to enter the 2013 WBC because he’s been there and done that.

“It’s a totally different thing,” Uchikawa said. “For sure, that I’ve worn a Hinomaru (uniform) would help me, but my position is different and my role is different. So it’ll be different circumstances.”