I was 100% the victim. The man who was supposed to have a drink with Satoshi Iriki, who died in a traffic accident, “the day after the accident” tells of his regret. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

I was 100% the victim. The man who was supposed to have a drink with Satoshi Iriki, who died in a traffic accident, “the day after the accident” tells of his regret.

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The intersection where the accident occurred. There is no traffic signal, but the visibility is very good during the daytime (Photo: Sankei Shimbun)

<Satoshi Iriki, a former professional baseball player who played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Yakult Swallows, died in a traffic accident on the night of February 10 at the age of 55. A mini-car Iriki was driving collided with a standard-sized passenger car at an intersection without a traffic light in Miyakonojo City, Miyazaki Prefecture. Iriki was taken to the hospital, but did not return home.

On April 22, MRT Miyazaki Broadcasting reported that the scene of the accident was an intersection with no traffic signal, and that there was a temporary stop sign on the side of the road where the passenger car was traveling, but the driver, a man from Tokyo, told the police that he was driving on a road he had never traveled before and did not notice the intersection, and when he noticed the car was coming. The police are investigating the man with a view to a charge of manslaughter.

Yasuhiro Hiyama, 55, who joined the Kintetsu baseball team in 1985 as a first-round draft pick out of Fukuoka’s Higashi Chiku High School and is now a successful judicial scrivener in Fukuoka City, was in the same year as Satoshi when they got into a fistfight in November 1990 during Kintetsu’s Hyuga camp in Miyazaki, their fifth year as professionals. They made up the next day, and after deepening his friendship with Satoshi, Hiyama later hit it off with his younger brother, Yusaku Iriki, who later became the Orix pitching coach. On February 11, the day after Satoshi’s death, Hiyama had arrived in Miyazaki with the intention of having dinner with Iriki and his family, but was told by Iriki’s family that Satoshi’s driving was not at fault and that although he was wearing a seat belt, he was thrown out of the car by the impact of the accident. Mr. Hizan was told by the family of Mr. Iriki that Mr. Iriki was not at fault for driving and was wearing a seatbelt, but was thrown out of the car upon impact. He looked up to the heavens and said, “It was unlucky…” > On the night of February 11, his younger brother was killed.

On the evening of February 11, the three of us were supposed to have dinner together with his younger brother Yusaku.

Mr. Hiyama, who leads a busy life as a judicial scrivener, makes it a “regular event” to meet his baseball buddies every February during the professional baseball camp. In order to meet up with his friends, who are not involved in work, he left Fukuoka by car on the morning of February 11 to visit Miyakonojo City in Miyazaki Prefecture, where the Giants’ third team was holding their camp this year, and Kiyotake Town in the same prefecture, where the Orix, who won Japan’s top championship last year, were holding their camp. At noon that day, a few hours before the first news broke on the Internet, I was suddenly confronted with sad news.

I met Kuwata (Masumi Kuwata, the Giants’ general farm coach), who was my classmate as the first draft pick, and after that, when I was about to drive from the parking lot to Kiyomu-cho, where Orix was setting up camp, I got a text message from Yusaku. Aniki passed away yesterday. So I am not in Kiyotake Town right now. I was so surprised that I called him immediately and waited for Yusaku and his family to settle down first.

The last time I spoke with Tomo on the phone was three or four years ago. At that time, he said, ‘I am going to Miyakonojo, so let’s have a drink after a long time. This time, if I could see Yusaku on the night of the 11th as planned, I would have come to Miyazaki with the intention of saying, ‘Call Satoshi,’ so if he had not passed away, we might have met. There is no such coincidence. (I wonder if (Satoshi) called me. ……”

The reunion with his friends that was supposed to take place disappeared. Various thoughts ran through Mr. Hiyama’s mind from noon to night on February 11, when he heard the sad news of Mr. Tomo’s death.

I didn’t come to Miyazaki to attend the wake, so naturally I didn’t have any mourning clothes,” he said. But I had come to Miyakonojo and was very close to Tomo, so I wanted to see him one last time and say goodbye. However, since it was a COVID-19 crisis, many places hold family funerals. I also understand the family’s feeling that they don’t want people outside to see the body if it had been severely damaged in the accident. (I kept thinking about whether or not I should go to the funeral, and even though I wanted to go, I wondered if I would be able to attend the funeral.

When he spoke honestly to his brother Yusaku about his feelings, Yusaku replied, “No, no, please come.

I was thinking, ‘I’ll be the first to go, so you’ll have to wait for me.’ But when we actually met, Yusaku and I cried together. His face was a little swollen from the aftereffects of the accident, but he didn’t look thrashed. I felt that Iriki was a professional who had made his way through the professional world and life by throwing fights. I can only express my gratitude to his family for forcing me to see him so early in the morning.

How did the Iriki family develop the bond that made them regard him as “like a family member”? It would be impossible to talk about it without mentioning the “fistfight” mentioned at the beginning of this article. Born in 1967, the two met in 1990. Mr. Hiyama, like Kuwata and Kazuhiro Kiyohara, was selected first by Kintetsu in the high-profile 1985 draft. Meanwhile, Satoshi, who played for Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima from Kagoshima Minami, entered the professional ranks five years later in 1990, when he was drafted sixth overall. His classmates were Hideo Nomo and Hiroo Ishii, Kintetsu’s pitching and hitting centerpieces.

Tomo is a maverick in some ways, but he does his best without any evil intentions. His straight-forwardness and single-mindedness, combined with his friendliness, made him do all sorts of things that people couldn’t help but laugh at, so he was also a bit of a tease.”

Satoshi Iriki, a member of the Yakult baseball team, heads to the bench after striking out Daisuke Motoki of the Giants in a pinch in 2001 (photo: Jiji Press).

Mr. Hiyama recounted a “hilarious episode” that took place during spring camp shortly after Mr. Iriki joined the team.

There was a sign posted at the stadium that said, ‘Take precautions against colds’ so that the players would not get sick. When Tomo saw this, he asked me, ‘What do you mean by taking all possible measures against a cold? (laugh).

(Laughs.) I explained that it was not “fuja” but “kaze,” and not “manzen” but “banzen. When I explained to him that it was not “fuja” but “kaze” and not “manzen” but “banzen,” he was excited like an elementary school student (laughs). (Laughs.) He was like this about everything, and his peers and seniors would correct him on this. I think he is laughing in the afterlife right now.

The “iron pipe beating incident” was reported in the newspapers.

However, even though he was able to laugh at the teasing at first, as the incidents piled up, he must have unconsciously accumulated a lot of resentment. In 1990, his rookie year, Satoshi’s emotions exploded at the Hyuga camp in Miyazaki in the fall after the official games. Mr. Hiyama recalls the incident.

“By the time the autumn By the time the Hyuga camp arrived, he must have had a lot of frustration and was in a bad mood. When we were having lunch after morning practice, Tomo was behind me, and his elbow got caught and spilled coffee on my uniform. That was my fault, so I apologized, saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ From Satoshi’s point of view, he probably didn’t like the way I apologized, but he was a man with a lot of blood on his hands, so we got into an argument.

It didn’t just end there. At the time, there were prefabricated rooms and tents next to the cafeteria where the pitchers would change clothes, and Ji pulled out a 30-50 cm-long iron pipe to support them from somewhere, and with bloodshot eyes, he punched me. I felt I was in danger, so I punched him in the face first. It would be unthinkable in this day and age. But even though Tomo fell down, he got up and came at me again. It was a real fight.

Nikkan Sports dated November 14, 1990, reported the following.

<In the end, manager Igarashi and pitcher Kazuyoshi Ono stopped him, and it was settled with only a wound to Iriki’s mouth.

According to Hiyama, there were eminent members of the team where the fight actually took place. The camp was attended by Rito Yoshii (manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines), Hideo Nomo, who later played in the major leagues, and Hideyuki Awano (pitching coach of the Giants), who was a left-handed ace. At the time, these fiery 23-year-olds, who later became pitchers representing the major leagues and the Japanese baseball world, were desperately trying to stop the quarrel between them.

The two players were penalized for the “iron pipe beating incident. The afternoon practice session was followed by a “penalty run” on the sandy beach behind the stadium.

I don’t like running by nature, so I walked, but Iriki was jumping and running. I was tired after practicing in the morning, but I felt like I had a spring in my body, and it was amazing.

After playing in the Korean professional baseball team for one year, he left baseball altogether and passed an exam to become a judicial scrivener. He played for six teams in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, and spent 15 years in the professional baseball world.

I jumped directly into the world of professional baseball after graduating from high school, but the more I tried, the more I began to feel the limits of my ability, and by my fifth or sixth year as a professional baseball player, when I was competing with Satoshi, I no longer wanted to make it in the world of baseball.

When Satoshi went to Yakult after being fired from the Giants in 2000, he clearly stated that he would “look back at the Giants,” and he continued to play baseball in Korea and Taiwan after his second stint with Yakult. He definitely had a rebellious spirit and tenacity, and that is what made him different from me.”

If the two had been able to meet on February 11 as planned, what would they have talked about? Mr. Hiyama had a question he wanted to ask.

I asked him, ‘Why did you bring an iron pipe with you at that time? (Laughs.) When Tomo and I used to drink together, we often talked about it, but I have never heard Tomo give a definite answer.

Tomo was a boisterous and unprecedented figure in the world of baseball, who had been involved in an unprecedented “iron pipe beating incident. But he was loved by many people because of his honesty of feelings. He will live on in the hearts of not only Mr. Hiyama but also many people in the baseball world.

Near the scene of the accident where Mr. Tomo died. Tire tracks are still visible against the curb (photo: Sankei Shimbun).
At the office of a judicial scrivener in Fukuoka City, where he runs his own business. He has been active for more than 20 years, taking a difficult qualification with a pass rate of about 3% (Photo: Nikkan Gendai/Afro)
Yusaku Iriki, Orix pitching coach and younger brother of Satoshi Iriki, putting his memorabilia in the funeral and farewell ceremony for Satoshi Iriki (Photo: Sankei Shimbun)
At first, we planned to hold a family funeral, but considering Satoshi’s personality, who made many people laugh during his lifetime, we held a regular funeral service. Flowers were then delivered by famous players who had left their mark on the baseball world (Photo: Sankei Shimbun)

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