By Ethan Roy
Chofu Little League, the 2019 Champions of the Japan Region, are one of just two teams in Williamsport that has a Little League Baseball® World Series title under its belt. In 1976, Chofu Little League defeated Germany, Puerto Rico, and finally California’s Campbell Little League to win the 30th Little League World Series Championship. Starting at catcher for that Japanese team was a young man named Makoto Nagase.
Flash forward 43 years. Chofu Little League is back in the World Series for the second time in four years, and the third time ever. Leading this year’s Japanese team as a coach is the very same Nagase.
During one of the Japan team’s practices, the players simulated game situations with noticeable intensity and precision.
“This is an amazing place,” Mr. Nagase said through team interpreter Toshi Kato. “I learned a lot about American style baseball and having fun. I brought the lessons back home and shared with my players.”
Now in his 17th year of coaching, Mr. Nagase said the Little League World Series drives his determination to this day. “My motivation is always looking forward to Williamsport. All the team tasks lead back to this destination.”
Mr. Nagase’s success as a player has played an integral part in his preparation, and mindset, as a coach. For many teams, the privilege of competing in Williamsport and the overarching essence of the Little League World Series fulfill their expectations and validate their experience to the fullest.
Now on the other side of the foul lines, Mr. Nagase understands that while the opportunity to compete is valuable in itself, the true value comes with a championship.
“The final destination is here, but we want to win,” said Mr. Nagase. “It’s a challenge to represent Japan. There is very high competition. We strive to represent Japan proudly.”
With 11 Little League World Series titles as a country, Japan has won four LLBWS titles since 2010. Chofu Little League is in contention to bring another championship. In its first three games, the Japan Little Leaguers has outscored their opponents 32-2 en route to a berth in Saturday’s International Region Championship game.
Mr. Nagase believes he has adequately prepared his team to compete and prevail in the Little League World Series. “Baseball is a team sport and we are always one team, with one dream,” Mr. Nagase said, when asked about how he prepared his players for competing on the global stage. “I don’t care about personal stuff. Players need to be thinking about the entire team.”
Along with Edmar Cornelia of Curaçao, Mr. Nagase is one of two coaches here in Williamsport who have appeared in the Little League World Series as players. Remembering and incorporating his playing experiences into his coaching acumen, Mr. Nagase is confident that this year’s Chofu Little League is prepared for adversity and ready to handle success.