In the 2013 Spring Koushien, 16 year-old Saibi ace pitcher, Tomohiro Anraku, threw 772 pitches in nine days. Five games, nine days, 772 pitches. There is no need for embellishment, because those numbers say it all. He is an elusive kaibutsu – a monster in both pitching and presence – not only in the games he plays in, but over the entire Koushien tournament. Rumors, awe, and the perception of his ability affect the mindset of other teams competing for the title. Anraku’s pitch count and perceived stamina drew national reverence and international ire, with Don Nomura (now an advisor to Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish) likening coaches’ treatment of Anraku to child abuse.
While discussing Ace of Diamond with a friend of mine the other day, he lauded the series for focusing on “the Yankees” of Japanese high school baseball, as opposed to another team of scrappy underdogs. For the most part – although I would more readily compare Japanese high school baseball to American college football – this analogy holds true. Eijun Sawamura leaves Nagano to attend the powerhouse baseball factory Seidou for his high school career. He himself is a scrappy underdog because Seidou is just that good, churning out highly-competitive teams year after year. With enough players to field at least three teams, if one person fails there is another waiting eagerly on the bench for their chance. For Sawamura, who yearns to be the ace pitcher of Seidou, the rookie kaibutsu, Satoru Furuya, solidly stands in his way.