MORIOKA -- The baseball team of Toyota Motor East Japan Inc., to which major league star Shohei Ohtani's older brother Ryuta belongs, won a second-round Tohoku area qualifier for Japan's city baseball tourney on June 6 to secure its first ever spot in the main tournament.
Thirty-year-old Ryuta Ohtani's Toyota team secured a berth in the 89th Intercity Baseball Tournament -- its first since the team was founded six years ago -- by defeating the Nippon Paper Industries Baseball Team 4-2 in Morioka.
After attending school in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, Ryuta joined a local club team and aimed to become a professional player. After two years in independent ball, he was invited to join the Toyota Motor East Japan club when it was formed in April 2012. At the time, the team had only 13 members, mainly from Iwate Prefecture, and they trained on the grounds of an abolished school. The team has won the first qualifying round for six straight tournaments, but up until last year had not got past the semifinals of the second round.
Ryuta has continued to pull the team along both as a coach and outfielder. He had no major cracks at the ball on June 6, but 56-year-old manager Kenjo Miki, who has led the team since its founding, commented, "Watching Ohtani silently practicing, the players around him have grown."
Ryuta shed tears of joy upon his team's June 6 victory. "We had never made it to the national stage before, but now we've managed to come this far. I want to swing the bat in my own style," he said, vowing to perform well during the tournament at Tokyo Dome.
(Japanese original by Tomoe Sanpei, Oshu Local Bureau / Morioka Bureau)