Manager Koike: The Unsung Hero of Meiji University Baseball

Manager Koike of the Meiji University baseball team poses in front of cherry blossoms (Photo by Osamu Gunji)
Photo By Sponichi

During his previous job as a civil servant (administrative employee), the reporter was in charge of promoting sports culture, and through his work he learned that “doing,” “watching,” and “supporting” are all essential in sports. That’s why I think it’s important to report on the people who support us, who don’t often get the spotlight.

In 2020, he started his fifth year in charge of amateur baseball. His reporting experience has led him to believe that “good teams have good managers.” He chronicles the exploits of managers who belong to baseball clubs but, unlike the players, never win a shutout or hit a home run.

The spring league for Tokyo Six Universities Baseball, which has a 99-year history, begins on the 13th. Riko Koike (4th year) of the Meiji University baseball team, aiming for the league championship for the first time in two seasons, may be the “busiest manager in Japan.” In addition to her regular managerial duties, her smartphone is flooded with calls requesting interviews day and night. The division is a prestigious club that has sent players to the NPB through the draft for 14 consecutive years. There is already a lot of attention, but this year there is captain Rui Soyama (4th year), a shortstop who is considered to be the centerpiece of the draft. He has received the most attention from the media, having been featured on the cover of a certain popular baseball magazine. Manager Koike, who is in charge of public relations for the club, continues to be dizzyingly busy every day, but says, “It’s good for people to know that there are players like this in the Meiji baseball club.” I have a lot of work to do. “Every day is so much fun,” he says.

The “big comeback” he witnessed at Jingu Stadium was a turning point. Yakult-Chunichi match on July 26, 2017. Koike was a third year junior high school student and a member of the soft tennis club at the time. In this game, Yakult entered the 7th inning tied at 0-10, but tied the game in the 8th inning, and won by walk-off in the 10th inning. He witnessed the unprecedented turnaround and fell in love with baseball at first sight, saying, “Baseball is fun!” At Kiryu High School, he joined the baseball club as a manager. Although he did not participate in Koshien in the two and a half years before his retirement, Ikuei Maebashi and Kazui Maruyama (currently Yakult), who was three years older than him and who was also from Gunma, went on to Meiji University, so he said, “Even at university, I was passionate about it.” “I want to do that,” he decided to attend Meiji University and joined the baseball club.

Jingu Stadium, a “turning point”, is the home base for the Tokyo Six Universities Baseball League games. We have created unforgettable memories together with the players, including winning three consecutive league titles from the spring of 2022 to the spring of 2023. From the start of the new team last fall, he was assigned a responsible deputy position and became the person in charge of public relations. Captain Soyama, one of the most prominent players in the amateur baseball world, is being interviewed by newspapers, magazines, and television. We will decide whether or not to interview Captain Soyama, who trains harder than anyone else, in consultation with him and his coach, taking into consideration his condition and interview regulations. Despite the difficult job of intervening and negotiating between the team and the media, he said positively, “I’ve gotten a lot of interviews, and it’s been very rewarding.” “I was able to grow by having more opportunities to interact with adults.I gained confidence in myself at university,” he said, boasting about his fulfilling days.

The team and manager Koike have set a goal of winning the “four crowns”: winning the spring and fall league games, winning the All-Japan University Baseball Championship, and winning the Meiji-Jingu Tournament. And I have another dream that I personally want to make come true. He is currently looking for a career path after graduation, saying, “I want to become an adult baseball manager.” I have been on a baseball journey ever since I fell in love at first sight. It seems like the goal is still a long way off. (Ryohei Yanai)

◇Riko Koike Born on November 1, 2002, she is 21 years old from Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture. She is a member of the soft tennis club at Miyagi Junior High School, and joined the baseball club as a manager at Kiryu (Gunma). She also served as the manager of the Meiji University baseball team, and in the fall of her third year, she was appointed as assistant manager. Her favorite saying is, “Don’t be proud of the good times and don’t get discouraged by the adversity.” Her favorite food is gyoza. Her nickname is “Rikopin”. At Meiji University, she is a member of the Department of Regional Administration, Faculty of Political Science and Economics.

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2024-04-11 15:23:47
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