Junko Yazawa has come full circle. Fifteen years after being told she was unqualified to be a pro baseball athletic trainer in Japan–because women are not allowed–Yazawa did just that in November.
Her first year with the Arizona Diamondbacks ended where her journey started, in Japan, when she was part of the medical staff of Major League Baseball’s postseason All-Star tour to her homeland. Despite being a big hit with the Diamondbacks staff, Yazawa is anything but an overnight success.
“I told him I wanted to be a baseball trainer, and he said, ‘You’re a female, so no way you can be one in Japan. No way.'”
One year during a trip home, Yazawa, a certified athletic trainer in the United States and the daughter of a former pro ballplayer, asked Chunichi Dragons star Kosuke Fukudome to arrange an incognito visit to the training room at Nagoya Dome, the home park of her dad’s old club.
“I wanted to see the training room of a Japanese baseball club,” she said last March in Phoenix. “I was talking to the trainer and assistant trainer and they showed me around. One of the assistant trainers asked me, ‘What do you want to be?’ I told him I wanted to be a baseball trainer, and he said, ‘You’re a female, so no way you can be one in Japan. No way.'”
“I went home and talked to my dad, and he said, ‘Of course.’ But I was already in the U.S. at that time. I had already been certified, so I was like ‘I can be one in the U.S.’ I was like, ‘Whatever.’”
Chiba Lotte Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi, the second baseman for the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox, became the 40th recipient of the Golden Spirt Award in Japan on Monday for his contributions away from the field, according to the Nikkan Sports. He joins Hideki Matsui, Tsuyoshi Wada, Bobby Valentine, Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish as big leaguers who have been honored.
In 1997, he began donating wheelchairs in his hometown to Nishitokyo City Hall and has been involved in community support activities for 21 years. Iguchi’s efforts are highly appreciated. He has visited child care institutions and elderly nursing home facilities, supported areas afflicted by disaster, promoted sports and helped out local communities. He has also been involved the pink ribbon campaign in the fight against breast cancer.
“I believe that this award is not only for me but also for people who have supported me in each category, and I will continue to continue activities to give courage, emotion and hope,” Iguchi said. “As a baseball person I will continue to do my best for the development of the game.”
The award ceremony coincided with Iguchi’s 44th birthday, and two surprise guests helped him celebrate. Mr. Takuya Matsumoto, who supported heart transplant surgery in the United States during Iguchi’s time with the Chicago White Sox era, and Dr. Shunei Kyo, the head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital, presented the skipper with a flowers and a cake.
SoftBank Hawks chairman and Hall of Fame slugger Sadaharu Oh, and Yomiuri Giants batting coach Sadao Yoshimura, were honored with special prizes and were also in attendance.