George Alberto Arias was born in Tucson, Arizona on March 12, 1972. While attending Pueblo High School, he earned letters in three sports – baseball, basketball and football (fullback). He went on to Pima Community College in the fall of 1990. During that time, he was twice selected in the amateur draft (San Francisco Giants, 21st round in 1991, and Baltimore Orioles, 38th round in 1992), but did not sign with either team. After moving on to the University of Arizona, he finally settled on a deal with the California (now Anaheim) Angels, who drafted him in the seventh round of the 1993 draft.
Arias was slated to spend 1996 in Triple-A, but had such a strong spring training that he stayed with the major league squad to start the season. In all, he played in 84 games, hitting .238 in 252 at bats with 6 home runs and 28 RBIs. That season would be his most productive (and busy) in the majors, as he spent most of his time shuffling between the minors and majors with the San Diego Padres (whom he joined in the middle of the 1997 season to complete an Anaheim trade previously made to acquire Rickey Henderson). After the 1999 season, Arias was released by the Padres. While playing Mexican League ball, he was scouted by the Orix Blue Wave, and they signed him to a contract.
At the start of the 2000 season, Blue Wave manager Akira Ohgi had Arias’ jersey name changed to “George” but it soon got converted back to “Arias” after the slugger slumped badly at season’s start. In the end, his two seasons with the Blue Wave were very productive – he slugged 62 home runs over that span, but was still regarded as a liability to the team, due to his low on-base percentage and slightly worse numbers than other import players around the league. When Orix offered him another contract, it did not involve a pay increase, and as Arias believed he deserved more than what they laid out on the table for him, the club and player parted ways after the 2001 season.
Newly appointed Hanshin manager Senichi Hoshino knew a good player when he saw one, and immediately jumped at the opportunity to sign Arias to a deal (on December 25, 2001). It would be a two-year contract worth ¥250 million annually, plus incentive bonuses. He started his stint with Hanshin with an Opening Day blast at Tokyo Dome against the Yomiuri Giants. That first season, though, he needed some time to adjust to Central League pitching. Arias said he struggled with all the breaking stuff that CL pitchers threw, as opposed to the Pacific League, where power pitching was the norm, especially in hitting counts. His first month ended with a disappointing .207 average, but he righted the ship immediately after, hitting .337 in May and at one point, leading the league in home runs and RBIs. Though his numbers that year were slightly lower than they had been with Orix, his 26 home runs and 82 RBIs were still enough to sit atop the Hanshin stat lines.
The offseason acquisition of Tomoaki Kanemoto, as well as Hoshino’s shrewd assessment of Arias’ personality (“he’s very serious but thinks a little too much”) meant Arias shifted down to hit sixth in the order in 2003. It worked out quite well for the team. On May 9 against the Yokohama BayStars, Osamu Hamanaka, Atsushi Kataoka and Arias hit back-to-back-to-back home runs into the left field stands, nearly replicating the magical act performed 18 years prior by Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu and Akinobu Okada. Arias got moved up to fifth in the order after Hamanaka got injured in mid-June, but he performed just as well there. In the end, he finished the season with a career-best 38 home runs, 107 RBIs, a Best Nine Award, a Golden Glove (at 1B), and more importantly, a Central League pennant for the Hanshin Tigers – their first since 1985. The team’s Dark Ages were officially over.
Like the rest of the team, Arias saw a drop in his numbers in 2004. This was partly due to injury (lower back pains in late June sidelined him for a few weeks), but also what new manager Okada called being “weak under pressure.” Arias finished the year with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and a career best .272 average, but it was not enough for the team to warrant paying him another ¥300 million or more. That, and the potential availability of Yokohama star Tyrone Woods (45 HR in 2004) made the Tigers’ decision final in December of that offseason. (Woods would sign with Chunichi, and the Tigers would “settle” for Andy Sheets instead.)
Meanwhile, Arias attempted to resurrect his MLB dreams, trying out for the Washington Nationals in 2005, but coming up short of getting a major league contract offer. Upon being released in April, he would spend the year playing in the Mexican League (for the Potros de Tijuana). In parts of two seasons there, he blasted 42 home runs. He gave NPB one more attempt in 2006, signing with the Giants in June. It only took 17 games of playing in left field for him to be demoted to the minors, and his career in baseball ended with very low numbers and an interesting comment: “With Hanshin, I was able to enjoy myself because we played with a cause and had hope, but with Yomiuri there was a lot of pressure around losses, so I wasn’t able to enjoy myself.”
Arias is currently coaching youth baseball while managing an apartment cleaning company back in the United States.