The small man with the big heart

Kimiyoshi Saionji launches a home run over the right field wall against the legendary Cody Cain in a 2-1 win over the eventual NBL champions, Richmond, in 2010

Herts Baseball Club has announced the departure of one of its most loved members, Kimiyoshi Saionji. He has just completed his transfer from the Herts Falcons to NBL rivals, Southampton Mustangs.

Kimi joined Herts in 2005 recruited thanks to another Herts legend, second-baseman, Shunji Kakutani. He made his debut for the Falcons on Opening Day of the 2005 season as the team made its debut in the Premier League (AAA-class) at the Shropshire Panthers after earning promotion in 2004.

Since then Kimi has been an ever-present figure at the club giving everything on and off the field through the ups and downs of relegation to AA in 2006 and then two consecutive promotions which included winning the AAA National Championship and promotion into the NBL in 2008 and finishing as NBL runners-up last season.

In 2006 Kimi suffered a horrific injury fracturing his jaw after a brave play as second baseman covering first base and colliding with an oncoming Richmond batter. That didn’t deter him. He was back within a few months better than ever.

In his 8 years with the club Kimi’s outstanding performances were recognised with a long list of awards, including the 2010 Falcons Most Valuable Player (MVP), three-time Infield Gold Glove Winner (2006, 2007, 2008), Batting Champion (2008), Home Run Champion (2010), Most RBIs (2008, 2010).

Kimi may have been one of the smaller players in the NBL but he has a big heart and the power of a giant.

Herts Falcons Manager, Lee Manning, said: “I’m sad to see Kimi leave but I will hold onto the great moments we had together on the field. I will never forget the image of Kimi with his trademark battle cry at second base every time he hits a double to start a rally.” He added “I and everyone connected with the club is grateful to Kimi for always playing hard and for sticking with the club during the dark years. Kimi will always be one of Herts Baseball’s greatest legends”.

His Herts Falcons team mates and members of the front office tried their best to convince him to stay, but the club will ultimately have to accept and respect Kimi’s decision.

Before his departure Kimi had a message for the club’s members: “Thank you for your kindness for nine years as a member of Herts Baseball Club. I love Herts and all the members. I want to wish the Falcons and all the Herts teams good luck this season. Please don’t feel sad. I will see you soon.”