Book Review: 'The Legend of Ito-Camp'


Last month, I happened to find out an interesting Japanese book about professional baseball players. The book title is 'The Legend of Ito-Camp' by Toshimune Suzuki. Suzuki had interviews with Shigeo Nagashima, ex-manager of the Yomiuri Giants, and 19 players who participated in rigorous training camp in Ito, Shizuoka, Japan in 1979.


When Nagashima was a baseball player of the Giants, he had outstanding records of hit and homerun and won many prizes. After retiring from player, he became Manager of the Giants. Although Nagashima used to be a brillant player, he had struggled with controlling his team. In 1979, his team ranked 5th among six teams of the Central league. To beef up the team, Nagashima decided to invited 19 young players to a one-month special residential camp held in Ito from October 28 to November 22. At that time, professional players did not practice after the league season.


Training was hellish rather than rigorous. Everyday, all participants were forced to practice from early morning to evening. Each of the player had different training menu, but some assignments were common: 1,000-times push-up, 1,000-times swings, 1,000-times Fungo, dashing up the slop, etc. During the interview, all participants recalled they had no energy to eat something in the dinning hall and wash their body in the shower room.


On the first day of the training camp, Nagashima inspired the participants to practice much harder and mentioned, 'Never limit yourself'. The participants showed rebellious attitude toward him at first but gradually respected him. Although training was severe and intensive, all participants could complete this one-month training camp.


Unfortunately, the Giants could not become the League Campion (the team was in the 2nd place) next year. Nagashima was also dismissed from the team. However, in 1981, the Giants won the first place in the league. More importantly, the participants became the major players in the Giants. Some transferred to other team.


The book teaches us through lessons from Nagashima that 'Never limit yourself'. While quality of training is crucial, quantity is also important factor you need to consider.