Southwestern College Sun
by Palomar Zaizar (Staff)
Mami Tagawas has a law degree to play hardball in Japanese courts, but prefers to coach softball in the United States.
Tagawa, 26, is SWC's softball pitching coach. She is also a full-time student working toward an AA in Exercise Science, even though she already has a B.S. in Law. Arguing in court is not her destiny, she argued.
"My life is all about softball," she said.
Born and raised in Sapporo, Japan, Tagawa joined a softball team when she was six.
She played second base, outfield and pitcher, demonstrating talent on the mound and at the plate. Her parents drove her 30 minutes twice a day to Towanomori San-Ai High School because it had the best softball team in the region.
"I appreciate my parents for doing this just because of my dreams," she said.
During her senior year she decided to play softball in New Zealand.
"That is when I started thinking about learning more about American softball," she said. "I had to focus on being a coach, which was tough. I learned that if I was going to become a pitching coach, I had to completely stop thinking as a player."
In 2016, Tagawa decided to quit her job to come to the U.S.
She was staying in Boston to learn English when she met an owner of a softball company in Los Angeles.
"Mayumi helped me get in contact with softball coaches," she said. "One of them was Southwestern College's head coach Yasmin Mossadeghi. She told me if I wanted to continue with softball, then I should be with Mossadeghi."
Tagawa learned that Japanese softball emphasizes tournaments during the season, whereas in the U.S. the season is compromised of conference games.
"In Japan we create the game individually, but in the U.S. the head coach signals each pitch and action," Tagawa said.
Mossadeghi said Tagawa is a great asset.
"Her Japanese style of playing softball added a structured element to our program that was necessary for the girls' quick improvement," she said. "Our program is lucky to have her and I can't wait for us all to continue to get better together next year."
Tagawa said transitioning to the U.S. is difficult because of language barriers and cultural differences.
"I was extremely nervous my first day at Southwestern, because I was meeting new people," she said. "I remember the first day of softball practice because it was raining really hard, but everyone in the team made me feel really welcomed."
SWC freshman pitcher Trudie Nixon said she is a fan.
"I think we are so lucky to have her," she said. "No other team that I could think of has a person like her from Japan and at her level that she has played at."
Sophomore pitcher Claudia Fierro said she can relate more to Tagawa because she is young.
"She is very straightforward and she knows exactly what to say to justify why the ball is not going to the right place," she said. "Coach T taught me to always have the same positive attitude no matter if you are at practice or pitching a game."
Tagawa said she has noticed differences between Japanese and American athletics.
"We have specific rules for the team in Japan," she said. "Underclassmen cannot do anything. The girls would speak to the seniors very politely like they were gods, but here everyone is so friendly and I love it."
Tagawa said she was shocked that American practice sessions run for about two hours, whereas in Japan they practiced for at least five hours a day.
Coaching comes easy, she said, but the American educational system is difficult. She said she would like to guide other students moving to the U.S. from Japan. She also wants to guide the Lady Jaguars to new heights.
ACE IN ANY LANGUAGE — SWC coach Mami says she is still mastering English, but she has no more trouble teaching pitching to Lady Jaguar softball players.
"I just want to enjoy this team and learn more from Yasmin," said Tagawa. "I want to learn more from higher level teams in the future, but for now I am very comfortable here."