This book, written by current manager (and former player) Tomoaki Kanemoto, is only a mystery to me because of when it was released. Kanemoto was still in his playing days and still extending his ironman streak from game to game, season to season, at this point. Why did he write a book and have it published in 2008 of all years? I feel like Kanemoto could have written this as a retrospective look at his streak or his career, rather than at his current state of affairs. Mind you, the idea that a 40-year old could still be playing every inning of every game was quite novel and perhaps worth a publication of its own.
One of the most interesting things that I learned in this read was that Kanemoto was not always the tough, durable ironman that we came to know and love as Hanshin fans. In his early days with the Hiroshima Carp, he was used sparingly and got hurt at the most untimely times, even asking if he could have days off. One of his coaches (Yamamoto, I think) scolded him and he realized that he would never get regular playing time if he could not make it through injury. Side note: He says he may not have played through the broken wrist he suffered when hit by a pitch were it not for Hanshin manager Okada, who called him aside the day after the infamous bean ball and said, “You’re good to go today, right?”
The biggest point Kanemoto makes in this book is, be aware of the decisions you make. Make them with a purpose in mind, know what it is going to take to fulfill them, and then do it. Kanemoto took care of his body (he talks about eating being an important part of his job – building stamina and gaining weight and fueling his intense weight training regimen), he practiced like a fiend (days off did not exist in his mind, even in the offseason) and played through a plethora of injuries (insisting on playing every game of every inning not only put that pressure on him, but he claims that playing through injuries helped his body to heal faster).
Another point that struck me was his strong sense of team play and consistency from manager to manager. He joined the Tigers in 2003 and was inserted in the #3 slot, where he took countless pitches in order to let speedster Norihiro Akahoshi steal second. This resulted in tougher pitch counts to hit in, but also meant a well-placed grounder would advance the runner to third and a single would score him. His 2003 numbers reflected this change in approach as he hit only 19 home runs. The next season, after Sen’ichi Hoshino retired and was replaced by Akinobu Okada, Kanemoto says the team atmosphere changed completely. Players who were nervous (in a good way) and intense under Hoshino relaxed their attitudes towards practice under the gentler former Tiger. The result was a disgusted Kanemoto, who hated seeing his teammates lose their edge just because they were not barked at as much. He said 2004 was the only year he played for himself and for his numbers. Fortunately the team turned things around in 2005 after their shocking fall from first to fourth the previous season.
Kanemoto is a reasonably articulate man with clear thoughts and a career that is worth understanding beyond the numbers and most famous moments (many as they are). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, and have already picked up his other publication, Bet Your Life on It – 人生賭けて (Jinsei kakete).