(Contains mild spoilers)
I just finished watching The Big Windup this week, which is a really fun anime. The manga that this show is based on is created by Asa Higuchi. Apart from being a manga artist she also graduated from Hosei University where she majored in sports psychology. I thought it was fitting to write a bit about it this week since we talked about A League of Their Own in the podcast.
I would like to discuss the talented Maria Momoe. She is the coach of the Nishiura High baseball team. She was determined to start a team and the anime focuses around the group of freshmen she manages to cobble together. Maria is very knowledgeable about baseball and is a fabulous coach. Not only does she help her team improve their skills at baseball but she promotes a healthy atmosphere for the boys to learn in. She doesn’t yell at them, she gives constructive criticism and calls them out when they aren’t pulling their weight, but she isn’t just screaming her head off at them.
She does aggressively make orange juice at a student for being a sexist ass about her being a female coach by squeezing oranges in her bare hands. It’s certainly an entertaining show of strength but even when he is being disrespectful to her she still managed to get him involved in the team by plying his competitive nature and getting him invested in the team. From that point on he is nothing but respectful and becomes one of the most dedicated members of the team.
Maria works several part time jobs and gives almost all of her earning to get the team gear and other necessary equipment. The team is able to have a retreat where they can work together and bond as a team before the season starts because of the money she has saved.
Maria also pays close attention to her team, I know this is something that all coaches have to do to a certain extent, but even other coaches in the show seem oblivious or simply turn a blind eye at some of the problems their team members might be having. She notices, and while she prefers to let the boys sort things out among themselves, she will step in when she is needed to keep issues from escalating. Maria is constantly pushing the team to focus more and train harder but even when the practice hours get extended she takes cares to keep it fun as well as challenging. In this way the boys stay in good spirits and look forward to practice even when it dominates most of their free time.
Now as much as I love the Coach I do have to say that she is not the focus of this anime. The majority of the time is spent on the students, as they grow as a team and as individuals but even here there are things I would like to address. Maria, along with the team’s teacher advisors, Tsuyoshi Shiga, promote a really healthy atmosphere for the boys to play in. At practice they start each session with meditation. All of the boys sit in a circle and hold hands while this happens. That was one of my favorite things about this anime. I think more young men should be fostered in an environment where it’s okay to show affection and where something like holding hands isn’t a big deal. This is something that is used throughout the show by the team to check on each other. The pitcher has anxiety issues and the catcher often checks on him by holding his hand. By being a coach who is respectful and dedicated to her team she helps her students learn to be respectful and dedicated to each other.