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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 香川・桜井広大「力の差をみせ、再び輝く場所へ」 〜アイランドリーグ注目選手に訊く(Vol.1)〜

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独立リーグ結果&ニュース : 香川・桜井広大「力の差をみせ、再び輝く場所へ」 〜アイランドリーグ注目選手に訊く(Vol.1)〜
投稿日時: 2012-07-06 23:04:10

 四国アイランドリーグPlusは6日より後期シーズンが開幕した。NPB入り、または復帰を目指してプレーする選手たちにとっては、野球人生を賭けた熱い夏を迎える。元阪神の桜井広大もそのひとりだ。昨オフ、戦力外通告を受け、香川オリーブガイナーズへやってきた。縦じまから緑のユニホームに姿は変わったものの、2009年に1軍で12本塁打を放った打撃は健在。前期は全40試合に出場し、打率.302(リーグ4位)、4本塁打(同2位)、28打点(同1位)の成績を残した。再びNPBで割れんばかりの大歓声のなか、打席に立つ日を信じ、後期に挑む強打者に心境を訊いた。
(写真:10年間在籍した阪神では通算打率.273、30本塁打、116打点)

――フューチャーズ(NPBのイースタンリーグ選抜チーム)との交流戦では5日に特大の満塁ホームランを放ち、格の違いを見せました。
桜井: 完璧な当たりでした。スライダーがど真ん中に入ってきて、完璧にとらえられました。いいかたちで後期につながる一発になりました。

――香川に来て、他に完璧だと感じた一発は?
桜井: 4月の徳島戦(志度)でのホームランですね。逆風でも関係なくレフトへ飛ばすことができました。こういう当たりをもっと増やしていきたいですね。

――前期の成績に対する自己評価は?
桜井: アイランドリーグのピッチャーには失礼かもしれませんが、3割しか打てなかった。もうちょっとできたという部分をあげればキリがないですね。ただ、決して恵まれていない環境で貪欲に、ガムシャラに、そして泥にまみれてプレーするのもいいものです。1球1球をムダにせず、結果を残したいという気持ちが一層強くなりました。

――やはり桜井選手は長打が魅力。その点、前期の4本塁打は少し寂しい気がしますが……。
桜井: ホームランの数が少ないのはその通りですね。もっと打ちたかったというのが本音です。でも、バッティングは難しいものでホームランを狙いに行きすぎると崩れてしまう。しっかりとスイングをして芯でボールの下側をとらえれば、ボールは勝手に飛んでいく。まずは自分のスイングでバッティングをすることに集中したいと考えています。

――阪神時代の昨年はひじの故障に悩まされ、1軍出場がありませんでした。試合に出ることで実戦勘も取り戻し、調子が上がってくるのではないでしょうか。
桜井: そうですね。まだ打たされている打席もあるので、それを1打席でも減らしていくことが今の課題です。

――打席のなかでもバットを一握り余したり、試行錯誤している様子が見受けられます。
桜井: 阪神時代も相手が速いピッチャーの時は短く持って打席に立ったこともありました。その時の感覚や状況で一番しっくりするかたちを探しながらやっています。

――打つポイントは基本は前にしていますね。NPBで導入された低反発の統一球にも対応したバッティングスタイルです。
桜井: 差し込まれないように気をつけています。NPBでは速い球を投げるピッチャーがたくさんいますから、なるべく前でさばけるように意識していますね。アイランドリーグのレベルではできていますが、NPBの1軍レベルでそれができるかが重要になってくると思います。

――昨オフに戦力外通告を受けて、NPB球団からのオファーがなかった時点でいろいろな選択肢があったと思います。アイランドリーグでのプレーを選んだ理由は?
桜井: 西田(真二)監督と、昨年までコーチをしていた前田(忠節)さん(現福岡ソフトバンク2軍内野守備コーチ)がPL学園の先輩だったことが大きかったです。監督に相談したら「来いよ」と声をかけていただきました。アイランドリーグはNPBのスカウトの方もよく見に来ていますし、頑張って結果を出せば、すぐに復帰できる点にも魅力を感じました。

――ひじを痛めた影響で、これまでは基本的にはDHでの起用でしたが、前期の最終戦からはレフトの守備に就くようになりました。守りに関する不安は?
桜井: スローイングもホームベースまで返せますし、心配はしていません。でも、実戦の打球はノックとはまた違う。だから1球でも多く、試合で守備をして、早く感覚を取り戻したいと思っています。

――阪神を退団する原因となったひじ痛ですが、どのような状態だったんでしょう?
桜井: 一昨年のオフに靭帯と軟骨の部分の手術を受けたのですが、術後の経過が良くなかったんです。それで昨季は試合でバットにボールが当たるとヒジに痛みが走る状態でした。もちろんボールも投げられませんでしたね。

――その痛みは今は?
桜井: 全くありません。香川に来た時にはバッティングに関しては問題ないレベルになっていました。スローイングはまだまだでしたけど、徐々にキャッチボールからスタートして、全力送球できるところまで回復しています。

――NPB復帰を視野に入れてプレーするなかで、さらにレベルアップさせたい部分は?
桜井: すべてにおいて、さらに上を目指さなくていけないと感じています。やはり、このリーグの他の選手との力の差を見せたい。その意味では、後期はより結果にこだわっていこうと考えています。打率も本塁打も打点も全部、前期を大きく上回りたい。

――香川にはタイガースファンも多いですから、桜井選手への注目度は高い。その点も励みになるでしょう?
桜井: 応援してくださる方がたくさんいらっしゃるのは本当にありがたいことです。皆さんのためにも、ぜひもう一度、NPBの1軍で活躍したい。それだけに集中して1日1日を過ごしていきます。

(Vol.2では愛媛・入野貴大選手のインタビューを掲載します) 

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(聞き手:石田洋之)


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