Satoshi Hirayama

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Satoshi Hirayama (平山 智)

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Biographical Information[edit]

When Californian Satoshi Hirayama was 12 years old, his family was sent to an internment camp in Poston, AZ as part of the discrimination against Japanese-Americans during World War II. After the war, Hirayama returned to his hometown of Exeter, CA. While very short in stature, he was sought after due to his speed and got a football scholarship to Fresno State. Not enjoying spring football, he developed his enjoyment for baseball and joined the university's baseball club as well. He set a college record with five stolen bases one game.

After graduation, Hirayama was signed by the St. Louis Browns and assigned to their Stockton Ports farm team. For Stockton in 1952, Satoshi batted .264/~.409/.305. While he lacked power (no homers), he was third among the regulars in average and did very good jobs on the basepaths (20 steals), using his stature to help him draw walks (71 walks in 82 games, with just 23 strikeouts) and playing defense (he led California League outfielders in fielding percentage, .991).

In 1953 Hirayama got called up and served two years in the US military. In the meantime, he had gotten the attention of Kenichiro Zenimura, who convinced Hirayama to follow the path of Zenimura's sons Kento Zenimura and Kenshi Zenimura. Satoshi signed with the Hiroshima Carp in 1955 and lived with Kenshi Zenimura in Japan.

Hirayama never showed the kind of on-base abilities he had in the states, but his hustling style and good defensive play earned him fan support. He hit .238/.291/.337 his first year in Nippon Pro Baseball, with 25 steals in 32 tries. His line was .240/.313/.361 the next year and he made the Central League All-Star team; he swiped a career-high 34 bases. He hit a career-best 11 HR in 1957 and batted .222/.303/.351 with 33 steals in 42 attempts, 7 fewer swipes than league leader Tokuji Iida.

Satoshi made his second All-Star team in 1958 and hit .226/.276/.335 with 21 stolen bases. He struggled even more the next two years, putting up lines of .211/.294/.289 and .210/.289/.324; he was just 8 for 17 in steals in '59 but was 18-22 the next year. In 1958 Hirayama achieved a measure of fame when he profiled in the August 4 Sports Illustrated.

In 1961 he had his best average in Japan with a .253/.332/.334 year, but ran into a fence at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium late in the year and never fully recovered. At age 32 in 1962, he hit .258/.337/.338, then declined to .177/.258/.215 and .182/.280/.364 in 25 games in 1964. Overall in NPB Hirayama batted .229/.301/.333 and stole 160 bases in 227 tries.

Hirayama and his wife wanted their kids to be raised in America so they returned to Fresno, CA, where Satoshi became a teacher. He was eventually promoted to vice principal, then principal and later to the district office as head of personnel.

Satoshi also worked as a scout after retiring as a player, for the California Angels and for the Carp after 1975. Among the players he found for Hiroshima were Gail Hopkins, Jim Lyttle, Tim Ireland and Adrian Garrett. He has worked in the Carp's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, where he helped develop Alfonso Soriano.

His birthplace has also been listed a Fresno, CA.[1]

Sources: Remembering Japanese Baseball by Rob Fitts, 1953 Baseball Guide, by Gary Garland

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