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Friday, June 1, 2007

Giants' Ogasawara talks softly but wields a big stick at plate


Staff writer

If you are a kid playing baseball and attend an instructional clinic at which a professional player teaches his elaborate techniques, you naturally become interested in absorbing those.

News photo
Michihiro Ogasawara of the Yomiuri Giants watches one of his three home runs against Orix leave the yard on Monday night at Tokyo Dome. KYODO PHOTO

If it is Yomiuri Giants third baseman and slugger, Michihiro Ogasawara, you are lucky to see one of the top stars in the Japanese pro game, but he is the least ideal player to ask about skills.

The 33-year-old Ogasawara — nicknamed "Guts" — is not an unpleasant person at all and is rather a calm gentleman. But he just can't explain how he's able to blast the ball so well — even on a night he goes yard three times, like on May 28, on when the Giants beat the Orix Buffaloes 8-2 at Tokyo Dome.

It was the first three-dinger game of Ogasawara's career, who drove in five runs in the victory.

Just like other players, Ogasawara, standing on a podium for the customary, on-field "hero interview" right after the game, said, "I was surprised. More than anything, I'm glad about the fact that the team grabbed the win."

And he now came back in the dugout and was surrounded by the hordes of reporters. But they knew what they would get from his mouth.

"I just swung the bat naturally with heart, and I have no words other than that," said Ogasawara, when asked how he managed to club the three home runs. "I just hit them on my instinctive reaction and was able to bash the ball well."

How about the first homer in the first inning off Lance Carter?

It was a changeup that came in low in the zone and looked the most difficult pitch among the three?

"I do not remember. I was really caught up," he said with a shy smile.

Ogasawara, who had played for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Pacific League until last year, and was named the league's 2006 MVP, was then asked whether there are any differences in pitching between the Pa League and Central League.

Ogasawara responded to this question with an embarrassed expression, saying, "I really don't care about those. I am sorry."

But does this make him a boring player?

No.

He is just really being himself, trying to perform to his best on the diamond. To show what he is, Ogasawara only needs a wooden barrel and baseball glove, not showy, gaudy comments to please the media.

And look what he has got. Ogasawara has hit .333 (third in the CL), with 14 homers (tied for second), 36 RBI (third), 71 hits (first) and 127 total bases (first) through Wednesday's games.

Yet, to him, those figures and numbers can be deceiving. Ogasawara feels he can do more to help his team push toward a pennant.

"If you look at the figures, I may be doing fine," Ogasawara noted. "But I'm not able to hit in clutch situations, when I should really hit. I would like to hit more on those occasions.

On the first homer of the three-blast night, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara opened his mouth, giving high praise to the batting wizard.

"It wasn't a pitching mistake at all," Hara said. "But (Ogasawara) still managed to hit the ball that hard and it impressed me so much. That requires real high-quality technique.

He may frustrate the media with his lack of colorful responses to their questions, but there is no denying that "Guts" Ogasawara is a gifted player, who is a master at the plate.



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