Ex-pitcher Kuwata instructs teachers on corporal punishment


Former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Masumi Kuwata held a lecture for teachers on corporal punishment in Osaka, where a high school student committed suicide last year after being slapped by his basketball club adviser.

Kuwata, who was invited by the Osaka City Board of Education to speak at the training workshop that was closed to the media, said at a press conference afterward that he talked about how sportsmanship should be.

“What’s wrong is wrong; there’s no need for logic,” he said of corporal punishment, while calling for the eradication of such use of violence at schools, describing the act as “most cowardly” as it takes place in a situation of “absolute obedience.”

The 44-year-old Kuwata, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last season of his 21-year pro baseball career, talked about his experience of visiting a school in the United States while he was playing there.

“There was no shouting or beating at all. (The students) were playing baseball in a free and relaxed manner,” he said. “Seeing that major leaguers come from such an environment is proof we can train people to become wonderful players without corporal punishment.”

Emphasizing the magnitude of the loss of “one precious life” at the city-run Sakuranomiya Senior High School, Kuwata said he himself never gained any benefits from feeling the pain and fears of receiving corporal punishment.

The education board said 513 teachers, including those who advise sports clubs, took part in the event featuring Kuwata’s hourlong speech which was followed by a question-and-answer session with the teachers. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto also took part in the discussions, according to the board.

The board revealed in early January that the male student, 17, committed suicide in late December after being physically punished by the adviser. It has confirmed that corporal punishment was practiced by the basketball and other sport clubs at the school.

Tanaka shows maturity

KUMEJIMA, Okinawa Pref.

In what may be his final season in Japan, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka is looking more mature than ever.

The right-hander, who has been tabbed to start Japan’s World Baseball Classic opener, resisted the urge to air it out in the bullpen on Friday, when Japan manager Koji Yamamoto watched him pitch on the first day of spring training.

“Before this, if I was in a position where it was OK to throw with all my might, I think I’d have showed off,” said the 24-year-old who could be pitching in the major leagues as early as next season.

“Instead, I was able to go at my own pace.”

This displays a heightened ability to objectively assess his condition, something that bodes well for a pitcher who is coming off a season in which he missed a month with back trouble.

Tanaka, who won the Sawamura Award in 2011 as Japan’s best starting pitcher, still went 10-4 last season with a 1.87 ERA and led the Pacific League with 169 strikeouts.

He signed a three-year deal in December with the understanding that the Eagles will consider making him available to major league clubs before the contract expires.

But before that happens, he has another goal, making the grade as a starter for Japan, after being used primarily as a reliever when Japan won the 2009 tournament.

“As a starting pitcher, I haven’t done anything yet for Japan,” he said. “I’m going to have to get results in camp and in the warmup games.”

In camp, he has been working carefully with each pitch to iron out the kinks in his form.

“It’s all about feeling. If you could explain a feeling in words, it wouldn’t be a feeling,” he said.