Decision to bench Japan players is lesson for Taiwan
The 2015 U-12 Baseball World Cup of the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) concluded this Sunday when the Taiwanese team finished in second place among the 12 competing teams after losing to the United States in the championship game.
This was Taiwan’s second consecutive defeat by the U.S. team in the final of the event since the biennial WBSC tournament featuring worldwide elite young players under the age of 12 was launched in 2011.
Though failing to take the title, the latest No. 2 finish for Taiwanese youth baseballers still once again proves that Taiwan is one of the world powerhouses in little league baseball.
While congratulating the hometown boys’ great performance, what also caught our attention during the 10-day tournament was an incident when Team Japan decided to bench some of its best players ahead of an important game against a stronger opponent.
In a preliminary round matchup against Team U.S.A., Japanese head coach Toshihisa Nishi ( ) decided to bench seven of his players as punishment for repeatedly being late to practice.
Among the seven players, six were the team’s starters and better players.
The decision meant Nishi only had 11 players left in the game versus the U.S., leading to the team’s ultimate defeat 8-0.
Commenting on his decision to bench some of his best players ahead of an uphill battle, the Japanese coach said he had no regret in doing so.
”This was the toughest decision in my coaching career but I believe baseball at this level is not only about winning or losing but about educating the young players,” Nishi told Taiwanese media after the match.
The Japanese coach’s decision drew mostly positive responses from most baseball commentators and fans in Taiwan.
Most believed that Nishi had made the right decision because youth baseball is never about winning, it is a form of education to teach our youth right and wrong through sport.
Many also noted that no Taiwanese coach would dare to make such a decision because winning is still considered the top priority for national teams at every level in the country.
However, there were also others who were skeptical about Nishi’s decision.
A local newspaper quoted unidentified Taiwanese coaches as saying that Nishi’s move was simply a form of “strategic deception” in an attempt to bench some of the team’s best players during preliminary round games in preparation for upcoming battles in the semifinals and the finals.
The China Post would like to first point out that Japan had no reason to do so because they could lose the chance to advance to the semifinals with the loss.
Japan ultimately failed to win even one game in the semifinals and finished No. 6 in the 12 teams with a 3-6 record in the U12 tourney.
We would like to note that such skepticism against Team Japan perfectly portrays how many Taiwanese baseball coaches have still failed to understand what youth baseball is about.
It is supposed to be a form of recreation and a sport that can help children learn sportsmanship and teamwork and simply have fun.
As perfectly exemplified by Nishi’s decision to bench players, youth players need to learn discipline in order to function as a team, which is the most important thing our youth can learn through sport.
This is what youth baseball is supposed to be. However, to Taiwanese, baseball has never been an ordinary game of bats and balls.
For a country that has little international space and has been deprived of membership in major world organizations, the pastime has been a source of national pride for decades.