If you are not moved in some way by final scene of episode thirteen of Diamond no Ace, then seek counseling, friend, because you might be a narcissist. That scene is so genuine and so raw. Much to everyone’s surprise (except maybe Chris Yuu) first-year Eijun Sawamura is chosen for the first string of the Seido High baseball team. After a brief moment of happiness, he becomes deeply sad for his teammates who were not called up. Unlike Sawamura, many of the unlucky ones will graduate and, therefore, not play high school baseball next year. Overcome by empathy, young Eijun is emotionally destroyed by this realization.
The moment here makes it worth enduring Sawamura’s somewhat frustrating personality up to this point in the series. Having him be so oblivious is actually what makes this scene possible, as he is the kind of guy who doesn’t think about things like “if I make it, someone else won’t” until they are actually happening around him.
As affecting as his passionate display is, the advice Sawamura’s fellow first-stringers give him puts the scene on a whole other level. What they ask him to do reveals part of their psychologies as baseball players, and one of the important ways that sports anime sets itself apart from other genres is its exploration of the psychology of teenage athletes.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – Hybrid “Dreaming Your Dreams”
Sawamura wants to run in and say something, to make some kind of gesture to his teammates who were not chosen. I don’t think he even knows what he is going to say, he just feels compelled to say something. His first string teammates, however, stop him. “What would you say to them?” they ask. What would you, one of the chosen, say to any of those boys who gave everything they had to baseball and yet were not deemed good enough? The question stops Sawamura cold. “We have to get stronger,” they add, “so we can fight for those who can’t!”
The team is asking Sawamura, as it asks each of its members, to take up the (baseball-related) hopes and dreams of his fellow teammates. Sawamura must bear that weight as a part of the first string. He must approach each game with a view to not only achieving his own goals but also those goals he has been charged with as a proxy for the others. Even though they are not on the first team, Sawamura has a responsibility to them. What is more, the first string seems to prioritize teammates’ dreams over their own. Chris alludes to this in episode seven, stating that each member of the team entrusts their entire high school baseball career to the ace, and the ace must shoulder this burden alone on the mound. The Seido baseball collective is more important than any of its individual members.
You might say that war anime exhibits this motif. A soldier might carry the dreams of another by carrying out the dying wish of his brother-in-arms. Maybe it’s to deliver an item to his family; maybe it’s to kill the bastards that took his life. In either case, the soldier is achieving the goals of his comrade as a proxy. I think that the situations are very different (so disparate, in fact, that it is unfair to compare the two) and each shows us an altogether different psychology. In the case of the athlete, his comrades are still alive, and the binding nature of fighting a war together or of deathbed requests is not present. The athlete faces different choices than the soldier, with different consequences and, thus, maintains a different mindset. He could also much more easily walk away from the demands being placed on him.
Here is how things could have played out: The players who make the first string stop caring about the ones who didn’t. Seido is the big time, and anyone who does well there has a chance of going pro. Each player has only a small window of time to make an impression on scouts and take the next step in his baseball career. Many would claim that looking out for number one is the wise move in these circumstances. Yet, the Seido baseball community fosters an inclusive mindset, incorporating the efforts of all of its members into its collective endeavor. For a Seido player, winning means winning for those of us who gave everything but weren’t good enough.
Being a member of the Seido High first team requires more than being a great player, it requires being a strong and unselfish person. Those who do not carry the dreams of their teammates onto the field will be frozen out of the baseball community, and being part of a community is one of the chief ends of playing sports.