Book Review: Put Your Life on the Line

kanemotojinseikaketeWhile I enjoyed the first book I read by current Hanshin manager Tomoaki Kanemoto (Prepare and Proceed, 2008), I still questioned its timing. He was still mid-career and was not coming off any major event (championship, surgery, retirement, etc.). But this book is a different story. Written the offseason after he retired in 2012, this book ties a neat bow around the unsightly end to his incredible career.

The book starts with the press conference at which he announced his retirement, but quickly flashes back to the start of the 2010 season, when he experienced a pain in his shoulder that essentially brought an end to his ironman (complete games) streak. Many people remember his poor throw from left on April 17, 2010, and think that throw was the reason the streak ended the following day. However, Kanemoto insists he struggled at length with staying in the lineup, knowing for months already that his shoulder was in terrible condition. At long last, he went to manager Akinobu Mayumi and demanded to be taken out of the starting lineup. The manager resisted, but Kanemoto insisted.

In the book, Kanemoto talks about how hard that season was for him – the pain of not being able to throw, of letting the team and the fans down, of not meeting the high expectations he has for himself. When he finally had his shoulder looked at by experts, they told him that surgery was the only solution. He feared that missing that much playing time would mean never making a comeback at all, because at his age (42), it would be nearly impossible to contribute after a lengthy rehabilitation process. Instead, he tried to rehab his shoulder while playing very little that season.

The book takes us through his final two seasons and the retirement ceremony, including his parents’ and daughter’s reluctance to accept the reality that he would no longer don the jersey.

Speaking of his parents, it was nice to read at length about his childhood, what kind of student he was in junior high (pretty average, according to him), how he was twice misinformed by his high school coach about college applications, and how he learned to turn all the negative situations into positive outcomes.

Perhaps of highest interest to me personally (as a relatively new fan of the team) was Kanemoto’s honesty about former teammates Takashi Toritani (hard-working but not very intense in games for a long time, a primadonna of sorts, if you will) and Takahiro Arai (lazy when it came to practice, misunderstood by Hanshin fans upon his signing, leading to misuse by management and dissatisfaction from everyone in the end).

Perhaps the lone weak point of the book was that it was re-published at the start of 2016 because of his recent appointment as team manager. I expected a little more of an addendum from Kanemoto himself. Instead, it seems like the publishers added a third-person post-script at the end of the book. Pretty stale and uninformative to anyone who has followed the team since the end of 2015.

On the whole, though, I enjoyed Kanemoto’s writing style and clear divulgence of his way of thinking on various subjects. I will definitely pick up the book he writes when his time as Hanshin manager comes to an end. You and I both know it’s coming. (“It” meaning both the book and the end of his managing career. Come on. The longest-lasting Hanshin manager has gone 5 seasons. We could have a new leader before the next Summer Olympics.)

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.