Chiben Academy is a private, powerhouse baseball academy led by Japan's most legendary tough-as-nails coach, Takashima-kantoku. Over 35 years, Takashima has led his teams to Koshien a record 21 times, and won 3 National titles. Through extensive interviews we reveal the mindset of the man many Japanese consider a "living Samurai". His training regimen focuses not on technique, but rather on developing fighting spirit . In blistering heat or driving rain, the team trains at least 8 hours a day, 360 days a year. At Chiben, two young recruits, Maeda and Hashimoto, explain their lives as aspiring professional players. They have chosen to put aside their education and their families in pursuit of their baseball dreams. But they can't go pro unless they make it to Koshien. The Chiben Cheer Squad is also legendary throughout Japan, and their senior leader, Furukawa, explains why they too must train so hard. Whenever Chiben plays a game, they bring the cheer squad, the brass band, cheerleaders, and the entire school (one thousand strong). Chiben enters the Wakayama tournament as defending champions and coasts through their first few games. But in the world of high school baseball, there are no "sure things". Tennoji is one of the top public schools in Osaka, and students must pass a rigorous exam to get in. Their baseball coach, Masa-sensei, explains how high school baseball will train his students' hearts for life outside baseball. All the same, everybody dreams of Koshien. With such an intense focus on academics, baseball is squeezed into the early morning or late afternoon. They do not have the funding or the scholarships to recruit players, so their chances of making it to Koshien are microscopic. They have not made it to Koshien since 1949. Nevertheless, they practice year-round, six days a week -- before and after school hours -- as well as during vacations, with financial support from their alumni. Senior third baseman Daisuke wakes up at 4 a.m. to travel to morning practice, with lunch from his mom and a ride to the station from dad. Maeda, the team's senior captain, faces great pressure not only as leader, but also as the team's best hitter and ace pitcher. Maeda's father skips work to see his games. Haruki has worked hard and shown improvement for three years, but isn't a great player. When it is time for the team to be announced, Haruki faces the prospect of watching from the stands as his last chance to play in the tournament slips away. Manager-girl Misaki explains her role and gives insight into the role of women in the male-dominated world of high school baseball. Tennoji enters the Osaka summer tournament - Japan's toughest - where 190 schools compete for just one spot at Koshien. Feeling the pressure, Tennoji plays hard through adversity when star second-baseman Kadoya breaks his nose at practice and can't play. But for Tennoji, Koshien is an impossible dream...or is it?
- Written by
Alexander H. Shear