"The Cheering Squad" (応援団 "Ōendan") is the twelfth episode of season one.
During practice, the team, with the addition of Hamada, continues to meditate, but this time start to actively train their relaxing reflex to trigger with the presence of a third base runner. Momoe and Shiga stress to Hamada the importance of the cheer squad, because the mood of the audience can make a break the team’s moral and ability to play.
Mihashi wakes up from his dream. He dreamt of when he was in grade school and Hama-chan, one of his few friends in Gishigishisou (Creaking Rust Villa), who gave him his first glove. Now, Hama-chan has come back to his life, because Hama-chan is Hamada.
Upon Shiga’s request, Hamada joins Nishiura’s practice. After stepping onto the grounds, he decides to go out again to greet Tajima and Sakaeguchi with the same enthusiasm they greeted him. Hanai comes to greet him too and is surprised that Hamada already knows him and all the other Nishiura players’ names. Meanwhile, Mihashi anxiously listens to their conversation from the side, stealing glances at Hamada.
Noticing that Mihashi wants to talk to Hamada, Abe drags him out and pushes him. Mihashi bumps into Hamada and calls him Hamada. Nostalgia takes over when Hamada tells Mihashi to call him Hama-chan, just like he used to. Mihashi never expected that he would be in the same class as Hamada, since Hamada is older. Hamada reveals that he flunked, not because of injury or sickness, but because of sheer stupidity. Mihashi shares that he had fun playing with Hamada back when they lived at Gishigishisou. However, when he transferred to a new school, he did not have any friends to play baseball with and ended up playing by himself.
Shiga breaks up the chitchat and starts the morning off with a dose of talk on meditation and relaxing. Usually, they would need 5 minutes to meditate to relax themselves. During the actual games though, they may not be able to afford that kind of time. Since relaxing during tense situations goes against a person’s instincts, they need something to trigger it. Something tangible and something present during intense times of a game. The team agrees that a runner on third, be it them or the enemy, is frightening and stressful. Thus, they decide that “runner on third” will be their trigger.
The boys join hands and engage in a short meditation. Shiga tells them to put themselves in Momoe’s shoes, who is playing the “runner at third”. They are to imprint that image and connect it with relaxing. Shortly after, Shiga announces that their meditation exercise ends there. The team starts practice and Momoe goes to Hamada to exchange introductions, as this is the first time they have met.
Momoe reiterates what Shiga told Hamada before of how important the cheering squad is. Supporters and cheerers have the power to encourage and, more importantly, to discourage a player. Hamada reassures that he would never discourage the team. However, Momoe was not referring to him, but was referring to the players’ parents. A parent’s sigh is more powerful than the cheering or jeering of the opponent’s supporters. Since the parents are the most ardent of cheerers, seeing them sigh, because of disappointment, will certainly chip away a player’s confidence. She continues that it is Hamada’s duty to kick out anyone who sighs. She immediately tells him that it was only a joke.
Momoe takes Hamada’s hands and sincerely asks him to miantain an even more positive mindset than the players and always keep the stands upbeat. At this moment, Hamada is taken aback by Momoe’s determination to win against last year’s champions. He then promises to give his best.
The team sets up for batting practice. Hamada notes they're using wooden bats (they normally use aluminum bats in games) and the balls speed is 130km from one machine and the other is set for sliders. Hamada offers to help pick up the balls. Tajima is able to call out where he intends to hit the ball, and does it. Sakaeguchi notes Tajima can hit it to where he wants 80% of the time.
After morning practice, the players attend classes. After classes they practice with field of vision exercises. Then they have base running exercises. Hamada shoes up with a couple of friends, who can run from base to base withing six seconds, to help with base running. When the Rugby Club takes over most of the field, the team practices catching difficult tosses. At the end of the day, their hard work is rewarded with onigiri (riceballs).
When it's raining, they continue to practice, including jumping rope and running up and down the stairs and pretending batting. After the rain, they rake and maintain the field.
One day at school during their break time, Hamada sews something while Izumi and Tajima eat their lunch. Hamada comments on how much they practice. Izumi says you get used to it. Tajima says he gets exhausted and can only masturbate once a day, but he enjoys practice. Izumi remembers how he hated practice in middle school. Hamada asks what do they do after eating their onigiri. Jumprope, skateboard, and jungle gym freeze tag which is serious thing since the winner of freeze tag gets to determine the onigiri filling. Meanwhile Mihashi practices balancing on the block of wood.
Hamada finally unveils the newly finished banner he has been working on: "Challenge! Saitama Prefecture Nishiura High School Baseball Club Cheering Squad"
Manga Cuts Edit
- In the morning the team can use the full surface of the grounds. Five minutes mediatation, 30 minutes of stretching in a sitting position. Then setup gauges for free batting practice. New machine can do left hand and right hand sliders. Old machine pitches 130kmh fastball. They use aluminum bats (not wood like in the anime). They have to pickup 400 balls after batting practice. Also they practice swinging while online waiting. Tajima can send the ball in 8 different directions, calling the place in advance. Players can hit as long as they want, no set amount per player. No defense training in the morning.
- When only 30 minutes left, they put away the old machine and use the new machine to hit fastballs at 140kmh. (87mph) Then they swing at balls from the pitchers who take turns throwing.
- In the afternoon they use panels to train the field of vision. After warmup, there's a half hour of catching and throwing. Then they take field positions and meditate while imagining a critical situation. Then practice changes depend on availability of the field. Hamada brings friends who are faster than 6 seconds, practice against base runners. On days when they only have the infield, they practice bunting ot split into groups of three to practice passing the ball while running. They practice tough catches by throwing the ball away. When it gets dark, they get a snack of 2 onigiri, tea, milk, and protein. Then they move to place that's still lit like the parking lot.