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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 工藤公康の投球論<後編>

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投稿日時: 2010-04-18 10:00:00

 工藤は語る。
「なぜ、そんなことをやったかというと、王(貞治)監督から“工藤、城島を一人前に育ててくれ”と頼まれたからです。
 主戦キャッチャーが一人前にならない限り、そのチームが強くなることはありえません。当時、僕は36歳くらいだった。このチームであと何年できるかわからない。
 野手は小久保裕紀、松中信彦らいいのが育ってきていたんだけど、キャッチャーがいなかった。それで城島に対しては意識的に厳しくやったんです」

 ところが、である。
「あるとき、王さんからこう言われたんです。“オマエ、なんで打たれるのがわかっていて城島のサインどおりに投げているんだ。サインに首を振りゃいいじゃないか”って。
 さすがに、この時ばかりは僕も言い返しましたよ。“いや、勝てる試合しかこういうことはやっていません。大事な場面では僕が配球を考えているので安心してください”と。
“お言葉ですが、『城島を一人前に育ててくれ!』と頼んできたのは王さんですよ。ちょっと打たれたからといって慌てないでください。僕が必ず一人前にしてみせますから”って。それ以来、王さんは何も言わなくなりましたね」
 試合が終わると、城島は工藤の部屋を訪ねてきた。深夜のレクチャーを受けようというわけだ。
 再び工藤の回想――。
「アイツ、調子いいんですよ。“昨日、工藤さんの部屋をコンコンやったんですけど、起きてくれませんでした”って。絶対、そんなことはないんですよ。こっちは寝ないで待っているのに、アイツ来ないんです。“何回、ベルを鳴らしても出てくれませんでした”なんて言ってたけど、本当かな(笑)。
 でも、こういう性格の子は伸びるんです。“オマエ、いい加減にしろ!”と怒鳴って、すぐヘコ無ような子はダメですね。何か言い返してくるような子じゃないと、プロでは生きていけない。
 城島は怒られながらも“いつか工藤さんに口出しされないようなキャッチャーになってやる!”という反骨心を持っていましたね。あの気の強さがあったからこそメジャーリーグでも第一線でやれているんだと思います」
 工藤自身もルーキーの頃から気の強さには定評があった。当時、西武の広岡達朗監督は「坊や」と呼んでかわいがっていたが、ルーキー離れしたマウンド度胸には一目置いていた。
 入団1年目のキャンプでの出来事。工藤はバッティングピッチャーに駆り出された。バッターボックスは山崎裕之。気難しい大ベテランに対し、工藤は2球続けてボール球を放った。
 次の瞬間、山崎はバーンとバッターボックスの土を蹴り上げた。
 3球目はど真ん中のストライク。しかし山崎のバットはピクリとも動かない。
 4球目、またしてもボール。
 ここで山崎がキレた。
「3球続けてストライクはずすんか! このクソガキが!」
 18歳の工藤は帽子をとって「すみません」と謝ったが、山崎の怒りは解けない。見かねた先輩投手が「工藤、オレが代わるよ」とバッティングピッチャーを買って出てくれたことで、なんとかその場はおさまった。
 振り返って工藤は言う。
「気の弱い選手なら、もうそれだけで“イップス”になりますよ。今の若い子なら耐えられないでしょうね。僕は一応、“すみません”と謝りましたけど、心の中では“バカヤロー”、一球ストライク入っているじゃないか。ボケ、打てよ!“と叫んでいましたよ。
 この世界、なんでも“はい、はい”ということを聞いている素直な子は伸びないですね。先輩やコーチのアドバイスを一回、頭の中に入れ、2回ほどグルッと回して“これはいらいないや”と判断することも必要なんです。
 要するに最後は自分で判断すること。城島もそうですが、これができる子は成長しますね」
 現役生活27年目。これまで数え切れないほどのキャッチャーにボールを投げてきた。
「キャッチングが一番下手だったのは城島。最後までうまくならなかった。“オマエはずっとマシン(の投げるボールを)捕っとけ!”と何度叱ったことか」
――では一番、キャッチングの巧かったキャッチャーは?
「巨人のショウキチ(小吉)こと村田善則でしょうね。ボールを捕ったミットの位置を、そのまま維持することができました。
 しかし、最近ちょっと横着になってきたかな。この前も“おいショウキチ、オマエ、キャッチング悪くなったなァ……”とイヤミを言ったばかりです。でも、ことキャッチングだけなら本当に巧いのはブルペンキャッチャーですよ。僕が知っている日本一のブルペンキャッチャーといえばダイエー時代の山本穣さん。この人はピッチャーを乗せるのがうまかった。あんな人に受けてもらっていたら、どんなピッチャーでもうまくなりますよ」
 山本穣は2000年4月、内因性急死で他界した。享年41歳だった。

<この原稿は『本』(講談社)2007年7・8月号に掲載されたものです>


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