Starting in September the Brave Bearies will be facing off against some of the best women’s softball teams in the world in the All-Japan First Division League. The team topped Second Division last year, earning a spot in the big leagues. Read on to learn about the team’s motivation for the upcoming 2020 season.
Asami Endo (right in photo)
General Affairs and Labor Section, Ishibe Plant
Manami Matsuda (left in photo)
Fifth Manufacturing Section, Ishibe Plant
1985: Top team in Japan
2019: First place in Second Division
2020: Back in First Division
EndoThe Brave Bearies are based at Ishibe Plant in Shiga Prefecture. This year is the 49th year since the team’s establishment. With the help of the company, the team members work at the plant in the mornings and practice softball in the afternoons.
MatsudaIn my daily work, I’m in charge of data entry and clerical work, such as restocking and organizing plant equipment. The other players are also responsible for product inspection, quality control, general affairs, etc.
EndoOur team has a lot of unique players, which makes for an interesting team overall. Not just their character or personality but also in terms of play styles. We actively work to make the most of each players unique traits in practice and games.
◆We aim to be a tight-knit collection of players who can stand on their own as well as with the team
First Division teams are filled with players that compete at the top level in Japan and internationally. Everyone is going all out to win.
MatsudaIt’s going to be a tough game, but we never flinch, even against higher ranking teams we will do everything we can to win. I feel that the desire or drive to win is important for all players to have and we actively foster high ambitions. Technical skills are of course important for winning, but that alone is not enough to win. I want to emphasize the connections between the players and their feelings as well.
EndoWhat we are aiming for is an "independent team," where each player can stand on their own. I believe that an autonomous group of independent individuals makes for a strong team. The same is true for our practice, which is balanced between team play and improving individual skill.
We also aim to be a team that is loved. In addition to good manner, greetings, and etiquette, I want our team to be loved for its good atmosphere. I hope those who watch our games are impressed by our performance, and want to support us.
◆Softball rules make for dramatic games
Softball has fewer innings than baseball, just seven, and special tie-breaker rules start each extra inning with a player on second base to accelerate scoring opportunities. This can make for exciting games with teams vying to secure even just one point. The ball is also large and doesn’t fly as far, keeping the action close to the infield.
EndoI really enjoy the speed of softball games. The field is smaller so everything is accelerated, which is fun to play and for the fans watching too. Strategy is different from baseball as it must account for the increased speed of play.
◆Underdog spirit and a powerful drive to win
EndoThe theme for the team this year is "going all-out to win." We are the underdogs in First Division, but we won’t give up and will spend every last drop of our energy to secure even just one more run and one more victory. I think our players have taken this to heart.
MatsudaI know it will be a tough battle throughout the season, but we will continue to fight with our offensive spirit and strong minds challenging the higher ranking teams. I am determined to fight through this season so that as many people as possible will know that there is a team here at NSK that is focused on winning against all odds.
◆Extraordinary circumstances for the 2020 season
EndoDue to the pandemic the first half of the season was canceled and there was a periods where we couldn’t practice together and instead focused on individual training. Despite this every member has been giving it their all in an effort to create a brighter future for the team. We are super thankful for everyone who continues to support us in these trying times, and will do our best to stay positive and put on a show with all our effort that can motivate others.
MatsudaWith tournaments in many different sports being cancelled, I was very grateful to have a place to practice and have something to aim for, and I was reminded of how happy I am as a player. Also, after being unable to practice together for a time, I was reminded that softball is fun to play together. Even though the number of games we can play as a team has been cut in half, I am even more determined to treat each game as important as possible. This year, I think the organization of the tournament will be even more difficult than usual in many ways. I want to play with a sense of gratitude for being able to play games and with a sense of gratitude for all the fans and people who support us.