The Japanese professional baseball regular season has come to an end, and as with every year, some players are retiring. I will especially miss the Yomiuri Giants' Shinnosuke Abe and the Nippon Ham Fighters' Kensuke Tanaka, who I have cheered on over the years. Though most of those retiring are veteran players, they are still in their 30s, or 40s at most, and their post-retirement lives are long.
If they are star players, they could go into baseball-related jobs such as coaching or commentating. However, not all outgoing players will find another job in the sport. What kind life will they lead after retiring?
I had an opportunity to speak with Fighters' manager Hideki Kuriyama, and he told me that multiple players chose to become firefighters after they left baseball. Confident about their physical and mental strength, Kuriyama says former players can find purpose in the tough work environments offered by jobs such as firefighting. His logic was very convincing to me.
In the glamorous world of professional sports, if a player excels and becomes a hero, they draw all of Japan's attention. Those involved in rescue jobs including firefighting, on the other hand, don't generally attract people's notice, but they can become someone's hero by saving their life. Unexpectedly, I found the two very different professions have something in common. I'm sure former professional athletes are exercising the excellence they worked hard for in various fields.
When Typhoon Faxai recently hit Chiba Prefecture, causing devastating damage to the area, numerous people including local medics, Self-Defense Force personnel, volunteers and those tasked with repair works on telecommunications and power worked hard for local residents. Posts about residents thanking those workers and sending them off with applause when they left the area have been widely shared online. They are someone's hero or heroine.
It's encouraging to think that you can leave a profession due to physical limits and other reasons, and then go on to the next one to excel, or that you can be a hero to someone even though you are not part of a glamorous world.
I pray that the post-retirement lives of baseball players leaving the sport are good and fulfilling. As I watched the touching retirement ceremonies, I hoped the rest of us too can put everything we have into our professions, however simple it may be, so that we also can be someone's hero or heroine.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)