On January 26, just before camp, Akinori Sasaki, 22, a pitcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines, signed a one-year contract with a salary of 80 million yen (estimated amount), which is the same as his current contract.
Sasaki’s brother is a “hostage”!
At the press conference held on January 27 after the contract renewal, Sasaki began by apologizing, “First of all, I haven’t had a chance to make any comments in public, so I have caused concern to my fans through the media. I have not had a chance to make any comments publicly. He continued, “I have been communicating and talking with the team since the beginning of my career.
Before Sasaki signed the contract, it was reported by Bunshun Online and other media that he had resigned from the Japan Professional Baseball Players’ Association, giving the impression that he was selfish, but Naoki Matsumoto, general manager of Chiba Lotte, said, “It is not that Sasaki was selfish or disobedient (as the reason why the contract took so long ). There were also some faults and shortcomings on the part of the baseball team.
A source in his hometown of Rikuzentakata, who is well acquainted with the Sasaki family, asserted, “Akinori was a player of his own volition, but he was not a player of the team.
Akinori is not the kind of boy who would take the initiative to withdraw from the athletes’ association on his own initiative, or to get into trouble with his contract. It is unthinkable. He is a shy boy. Lotte had been trying to nurture him carefully over a long period of time, but I can only think that big money is involved and that the adults around him are making moves according to their own agendas.
Big money…that is the annual salary that Sasaki is expected to receive if his long-sought challenge to the big leagues comes true and he is signed to a major league contract. The Los Angeles Dodgers Nation YouTube channel reported that Sasaki’s salary could be as high as $400 million (¥59.2 billion) after the 2014 offseason if he is able to sign a major league contract.
Sasaki has asked his attorney to negotiate a contract that includes a future move to the majors. That agent is also a member of the management company he established in ’19, when he turned pro, with his mother and aunt as executives. In his second year as a pro, he became the youngest player in history (20 years and 5 months old) to complete a perfect game, and Dentsu, a major advertising agency, has been playing a central role in Sasaki’s commercials and his own promotional activities.
Sasaki’s eldest brother joined Dentsu after graduating from university. A source in Rikuzentakata City, mentioned above, continued, “Akinori’s brother joined Dentsu after he graduated from university.
It may be an overstatement to say that Akinori’s brother is a “hostage” to Dentsu, but considering the possibility of big money in the future, there are all kinds of speculations.
Like the Rikuzentakata city officials mentioned above, Sasaki will never forget the tragedy he experienced at the age of nine. He lost his father and grandparents in the Great East Japan Earthquake, and his home was also lost in the tsunami. When he joined Lotte, he said, “I learned that the life I take for granted is not the norm. I want to play an active role and contribute to the community as much as possible,” he vowed to help rebuild his hometown, which was devastated by the disaster. He always returns to his hometown for voluntary training in the off-season because “I am the type of person who thinks that if I do voluntary training and have the media come to report on it, it might bring a little money to my hometown. His feelings for his hometown are pure and strong” (Chiba Lotte alumnus).
Sasaki returned to his hometown for New Year’s Day this year, and was said to have been secretly proposing a plan to return the favor to his alma mater, Ofunato High School.
I heard that he proposed to his alma mater that they build an indoor practice field on campus for everyone to use, not just for baseball,” said Sasaki. But they said, ‘There is no precedent for such a thing at a prefectural high school,’ and turned it down,” said an Ofunato City official.
Ofunato, where the Sasaki family moved after the disaster, is facing many problems, such as population decline and industrial recovery, as March marks 13 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The local people who have known Sasaki for a long time took the risk of working to keep him from closing his mind, which he has witnessed every time he returns home off and on.
A resident of Ofunato City, who had helped Sasaki in the past, built an indoor practice field, relying on his own funds and subsidies (government subsidies for business restructuring).
The full-scale practice facility, with a total cost of over 60 million yen, was completed in May of last year.
Sasaki’s protracted contract negotiations this off-season have made him a “dirtbag,” but this is not the case in his hometown.
Everyone is worried about him from the bottom of their hearts. He is a kid who just loves baseball and wants to be good at it. It may not be easy to reverse the image that has been attached to him, but it is clear that many things are going on regardless of his intentions,” said a source in Rikuzentakata City.
One wonders how Sasaki is feeling about the “hearty encouragement” from the people back home as he looks forward to the camp.
PHOTO： Sankei Shimbun (1st photo) Jiji Press (2nd photo)