The Yomiuri ShimbunAkinori Iwamura, who played for the Yakult Swallows and in the major leagues, and is currently a player-manager for the Fukushima Hopes of the independent BC League, said this month he plans to retire from action on the field at the end of the season.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to let up.
“I've always run all out to first base, and I will continue to do that,” Iwamura said.
Facing the final chapter of his playing days, he renewed his vow to take off once he makes contact with the ball. This was the lesson that was beaten into him during in his days at Uwajima Higashi High School in Ehime Prefecture.
He was faithful to the words by the late Masanori Joko, his coach at Uwajima who eventually moved on to Saibi High School.
On routine flies and groundouts, the tendency is to want to let up, but he’s proud that has “stuck to the most basic of baseball’s basics.”
He can be proud of walking a straight-and-narrow baseball path built on this foundation.
While a member of the Swallows in August 2005, his mother Michiyo passed away. Tsutomu Wakamatsu, the Yakult skipper at the time, told him, “It’s OK, get out of here.”
But Iwamura responded: “No. I’m focused on the next game,” and remained at Jingu Stadium.
Iwamura launched a pair of home runs in the game that day and, “as a professional,” remains proud about that moment even now.
There are other games that stand out in his memories on the field:
■ The day in 2001 when the Swallows clinched the Central League pennant.
■ The two times Japan won World Baseball Classic titles.
■ The playoff victory that put the Tampa Bay Rays into the World Series in 2008.
However, he couldn’t point to one game that stands out most. “I played as hard as I could in every game,” he said.
The BC League schedule runs through September, and Iwamura said, “I will still be up at the plate a lot. Even on a routine out, I will go all out and run my hardest.