The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In 1872, a young American named Horace Wilson introduced baseball to Japan by teaching Japanese students how to play. Since then, baseball has become Japan’s most popular partici­patory and spectator sport. On March 5, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) CEO Forum hosted a luncheon at Tokyo American Club with Japanese–Chinese Baseball legend Sadaharu Oh, also known as Japan’s “Home Run King,” moderated by CEO Forum Co-Chair Harry Hill. Oh discussed his success as an athlete, his management experience, and his work as chairman of the World Children’s Baseball Foundation (WCBF), along with the similarities between successful sportsmanship and business.

“Mr. Oh is simply a living legend for baseball fans,” said ACCJ President Sachin N. Shah in his introductory speech. “He is an example for anyone who strives to constantly improve and to grow, and—perhaps more importantly—to give back.”

With 868 home runs during his pro­fessional career, which spanned 22 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League from 1959 to 1980, Oh still holds the world lifetime home run record.

Sadaharu Oh and ACCJ CEO Forum Co-chair Harry Hill

Regarding his success, Oh explained that, when thrown into a pool of strong players at age 18, he realized that he had to become stronger and rise up to the challenge. But his initial desire to win every game led to failure. He learned that, although highly regrettable, losing is okay and you must forgive yourself. You can’t drag your regrets from today to tomorrow. Instead, you should reset yourself for the coming day. “Tomorrow will come, so let’s forget about today and start again with a clean slate.”

After retiring as a player, Oh managed the Yomiuri Giants from 1984 to 1988, and led the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to two Japan Series titles in 1999 and 2003.

But that success required perseverance and learning. During his first stint as a manager, Oh thought the players would come to him first when there was an issue. When this didn’t happen, his run at being a manager ended in failure. The second time around he made sure to change his approach. He knew that he could understand the condition of a player better if he spoke to them first.

Shah, a huge baseball fan and former collegiate player, strongly believes that sports is a great equalizer and creates a level playing field. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. And this is also true in business.”

Shah said this allows your individual talent and spirit to shine, and Oh’s stories echoed this, highlighting the importance of having your own vision and being innovative. Oh said that it is never good to copy or imitate someone, because you can’t gain much that way. Devoting yourself to your practice and training, and not being too obsessed with a single win or success, is key in both sports and business.

Comparing being a player to a manager, Oh stated that, as a player, you do not need to know so much about the other players. They can regulate themselves. But as a manager you must know all about the players. You have to look after them and let them know that they are always taken care of. He also said that, to be a good batter, you have to learn to dodge balls from time to time and to protect yourself. The same can be said for a manager in business.

Oh sees his position as chairman of the WCBF, which he founded together with baseball legend Hank Aaron in 1988, as his own obligation to be supportive of children. “I hope you’ll always encourage your children in whatever area you are dealing with. Give the children all the opportunities.”

He talked about baseball’s potential to bring together kids from all around the world. He does this through the WCBF’s international exchange program, which has been held annually since 1990 and will take place in Japan this summer.

CEO Forum Co-Chair Harry Hill wrapped up the event and enthusiasti­cally urged everyone to help fund the meaningful foundation, while Shah announced that the ACCJ will donate ¥100,000 to the WCBF from the ACCJ Community Service Fund.

Mona Ivinskis is a writer at Custom Media, publisher of The ACCJ Journal.
He learned that . . . losing is okay and you must forgive yourself.