A Baseball Gaijin
Chasing a Dream to Japan and Back
Aaron Fischman, Don Nomura
- 264 Pages
- March 19, 2024
- ISBN: 9781683584773
- Trim Size: 6in x 9in x 0in
Like many American boys, Tony Barnette yearned to one day make it to "The Show," playing baseball professionally. The Arizona State pitcher was drafted in the 10th round in 2006 by the in-state Diamondbacks. It looked like this was the beginning of a blessed life, being able to play the game he loved the most on the grandest of stages in front of family and friends.
But things don't always work out the way we want them to.
On the verge of achieving his lifelong dream after starting 29 games in Triple-A in 2009, Tony looked ahead to 2010 with optimism. That’s when Japan came calling, offering a significant salary hike in exchange for forgoing, or at least delaying, a likely forthcoming big league debut.
Ahead of 2010, the Diamondbacks agreed to release Tony so he could play for Tokyo’s Yakult Swallows, the renowned Yomiuri Giants’ intra-city rivals.
At that time, the only thing he had in common with the country was a love for baseball. He did not know the language and was unfamiliar with the league (NPB), or, essentially, anything else. With his family in the States, he was on his own in a strange land with the hopes of one day making it back to America and pitching in the major leagues. He knew the odds were against him, as less than one quarter of gaijin (the Japanese word for "foreigner") ballplayers who go to Japan appear in the majors at any point thereafter.
Right off the bat, he struggled, even being demoted multiple times to the farm team. But when you're chasing a dream, you expect to encounter several roadblocks or obstacles. Tony refused to be deterred. Over six seasons in Japan, the starter became a reliever, who then became a closer. In 2015, after notching 41 saves and a 1.29 ERA while guiding the long-suffering Swallows to the Japan Series, the Japanese equivalent of the World Series, he finally got the call he had been waiting for. Signing with the Texas Rangers on December 15, 2015, Tony would make his first appearance in a major league game on April 5, 2016, at age thirty-two.
Barnette would go on to pitch four seasons with the Rangers and Chicago Cubs, fulfilling a lifelong dream that seemed at many times would not happen.
Through extensive research and reporting, author Aaron Fischman worked directly with Barnette to tell his story of perseverance, determination, and never giving up on your dream. With the support of his loving family and friends—as well as his interpreter and teammates and coaches across two continents—A Baseball Gaijin is a feel-good story that can be enjoyed by baseball and non-baseball fans alike.
Don Nomura is a longtime baseball agent who facilitated the major league arrivals of Hideo Nomo, Hideki Irabu, and Alfonso Soriano from Nippon Professional Baseball. In doing so, he pioneered player movement from Japan to North America, triggering the creation of the posting system still operating today. Nomura has also represented Tony Barnette, Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda, and Jack Howell, among other MLB and NPB players. He splits his time between Tokyo, California, and Hawaii.