Norihiro Akahoshi – The Decision

Last year, I had the pleasure (and sometimes pain) of digging deep into team history to learn about some of the all-time greats. The fruits of my labor are an entire section of the website dedicated to legendary players and elite (and notorious) imports. Among the last of the legends is the author of this book, Norihiro Akahoshi, a.k.a. Red Star. (Click on his name for a look at his numbers and life story.)

Actually, much of his biography came indirectly from this title. During my research, I scoured his Wikipedia page, and most of the quotes from it came from this book, so I figured, why not go straight to the source?

So here I am. What is this book all about? It starts out with his untimely and career-ending injury, on September 12, 2009. His attempt to make a diving catch in center field left him temporarily unable to move his legs. The spinal cord injury left him with tingling in his arm, the inability to move his fingers, and caused him to fall into depression as well.

But the injury was not the lone cause of his depression. In early December, just as his rehabilitation was starting to make progress, he got called to the club’s front office. He thought it was a standard following of league policy: any salary being slashed more than the union’s maximum permitted percentage had to be completed by a certain date. He figured the club was probably going to tell him how much they were cutting his pay. Instead, they dropped a bomb on him: “We think it would be best that you retire.” Akahoshi was not ready to accept this possibility, so he went to several practitioners for second opinions. At last he found one doctor who gave him a ray of hope… But by this point other factors had come into play and he made the decision to retire. (For the record, this book was written in the spring of 2010, before the next season was set to begin.)

The middle chapters of the book recount his childhood, his road to the pros (hardly your standard path), and the highs and lows of his playing career (including the walk off hit in the team’s final game before clinching the 2003 pennant).

But perhaps most impressive about Akahoshi’s story is his desire to make the world a better place. From 2003 until he retired, he donated a wheelchair to a hospital for every stolen base he recorded. That’s right. Using his legs to help those who can’t use theirs. In his final 7 seasons he robbed 301 bags. Not only that, but he started a youth baseball program (still in operation, I think) to help those who cannot afford expensive baseball lessons/club fees. His goal is not just to create baseball players, but upstanding young men who learn life lessons from the sport that gave Akahoshi his life and the lessons he learned.

All in all, it was great to read this upstanding man’s story firsthand. Of the players’ books I have read, this is top 3 for sure.

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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.