Tuesday the 19th of September ‘baseball has met science’ at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo. In a ‘sold out’ room, team FASTBALL played a Japanese all-start team of scientists and coaches under the welcome hosting of Jan Hein Chrisstoffels and Mihoko Ishii, of the Innovation department of the Dutch Embassy in Japan.
After a long trip from Amsterdam to Tokyo, and a storm-interrupted visit to the JSPFSM in Matsuyama, last Tuesday, prof. Veeger and me, Erik van der Graaff, set foot on Dutch soil again. The beautiful garden of the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo, at the foot of the ‘orange’ Tokyo-tower was the décor of a workshop that we organized in cooperation with the Innovation department of the Dutch Embassy. In recent years, prof Veeger has been travelling to Japan as an AISS & DSEI member with the RVO science missions. Last year, initial contacts were further developed by the visit of the whole FASTBALL team to the ISBS conference at Tsukuba University. As baseball is the Japan number 1 sport, a baseball scientist is warmly welcomed in all universities and research institutes (of which there are many in Japan). Over the years we have met so many people, that after sending out some invitations, the room for our workshop on this day was fully booked! Must been said that the star-line up deserved the fully booked room.
Toshihisa Nishi kicked of the meeting. Dr. Nishi is the infield and running coach of the Japanese WBSC team and the manager of the Japanese U12 youth team. We were very honored that he wanted to share his thoughts on youth development at our workshop and be a representative of Japanese baseball.
Our aim with this workshop was to explain our approach to baseball enthusiasts in Japan. On the one hand we wanted to find common ground with scientists in Japan, and on the other hand see if the baseball community and Japanese companies are interested in developing and commercializing our results in a baseball driven country. In order to explain our approach prof. Veeger started of with explaining the scientific opportunities that biomechanical studies and modeling can present to baseball. As we have further developed our model of the human shoulder, we now can calculate muscle load for simulated pitching performances. In that way we get insight in what throwing techniques account for dangerous tissue loading and might result in injury. Secondly, prof. Veeger presented initial result of our 3 year screening of 125 baseball pitchers from the Dutch academies. We demonstrated the severity of the injury problem in baseball and the complexity of injury prevention in the baseball practice.
It was my turn to explain how we are implementing these finding in the baseball training practice, and tell about motor learning studies we have performed. Not only have we studied coaches’ instruction styles in Dutch baseball (read our article1), also we worked together with coaches of many European teams to create a list of 10 ‘key points’ of the perfect pitch. One of the most intricate issues between those 10 key points, and an issues that deserves much more attention, is inter-segmental timing. We demonstrated our prototype of a feedback system that can give feedback on pelvis and thorax interaction in real time, during training sessions. This system has already been used in the Dutch academies for the past months, and this was the first time I had an opportunity to demonstrate our device to a broader audience.
After a short break, in which we could enjoy some Dutch Douwe Egberts coffee, two top professors with many years of experience in baseball science presented some of their latest work. Professor Kawamura from Tukuba University has been traveling to the Netherlands twice as coach of the Japanese student team.
Next to his work as a professor in Tsukuba he is also the manager of Tsukuba baseball team, one of the major Japanese University teams. Prof Kawamura presented about an interesting problem in Japanese baseball and that is the different mounds that are used between amateur and professional baseball in Japan which results in complete different throwing techniques.
Prof Yuji Ohgi working at Keio Univeristy held the final presentation of the day. Dr Ohgi presented the
possibilities of biomechanical studies with some new products that his group developed at Keio University, for instance an instrumented baseball. With this high-tech equipment they performed an specific assessment of knu
kleball pitching technique.
After the formal part of the workshop, all guests were invited for drinks (Heineken beer) and dinner alongside the pool of the Dutch Embassy. During the dinner al guests had a change to ask us more questions, and hopefully the many positive conversations will result in further continuation of these amazing opportunities that baseball has presented to Japanese-Dutch collaboration.
We are very thankful to the Dutch Embassy, and especially Mihoko and Jan Hein for making this day possible. Hopefully we will be back for continued development of baseball innovations.
*1 van der Graaff, Hoozemans, Pasteuning, Veeger, Beek, (2017). Focus of attention instructions during baseball pitching training. International Journal of Sport Science and Coaching, DOI: 10.1177/1747954117711095
This STW-funded project, named project FASTBALL, is a cooperation between the Dutch baseball federation and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Delft University of Technology, the Bergman clinic, Motekforce Link and the fysiopractices Manual Fysion and Medicort.