“Relationships deepen by repeatedly paying attention to not just the big things, but the small details as well. It was my job as ‘housewife’ to elevate the status of the ‘men of the house,’ the pitchers. I think I was able to do this because I always made it priority to think not of myself, but to put their feelings ahead of my own. That’s how I was able to build relationships with my teammates.”
Former Hanshin Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano compares his life as a catcher to that of a housewife who desires with all her heart to support her husband, who gets the spotlight. He did not desire to be the hero or the one who got the glory, but rather the one who contributed to the pitchers getting their proper due.
In this book, Yano talks about his childhood and the factors that contributed to this part of his character. His father was seldom present but loved baseball. His mother was physically unwell most of his childhood but still did her best to run the household. His older sister (6 years older) always took good care of him and treated him well. His older brother, who loved baseball but wasn’t good enough to go pro or even go on to play in college, insisted that Akihiro go to college and make a proper life for himself. He even went as far as to help fund his younger brother’s college fees.
He shares his successes and failures along the way, including not getting into the high school or college of his choice. He talks about the high school teacher who basically saved him from a life of hooliganism and petty crime. He talks about the heartache of being drafted by the Chunichi Dragons, a team that already had a capable catcher just two years his senior. He talks about the uncertainty of moving to the Hanshin Tigers, fitting in with a new bunch of teammates, his wife’s struggles with moving away from the Nagoya area for the first time in her life. He talks about how much he learned from Tigers manager Katsuya Nomura about catching and about the game, but also about his insecurities playing for Nomura’s successor, former Dragons manager Senichi Hoshino, the man who had traded him from Chunichi in the first place.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the first half, the best part of the book comes at the end. Yano talks about his own personal theory of catching, including how he took care of different pitchers in different situations. He also ends the book with chapters specifically thanking the people that mean the most to him: his wife, his mother, his brother, and others. He talks about what it meant to win a championship, what it means to have an impact on the lives of children (his own, his nieces and nephews, and even baseball fans in general). He talks about what it was like to make the transition from a 20-year veteran catcher to a color commentator, and even hints about coming back to the Tigers as a coach or manager at some point.
After reading this book, I can only hope that day comes soon. I gained a whole new level of respect for this humble, dedicated man who has lived his life to elevate the status of others.