January 30, 2009 -
Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama has been chosen as the recipient of the prestigious 2009 Al Radka Award, the Fresno Grizzlies announced on Friday. The honor, along with four other awards, will be handed out at the 48th Annual Hot Stove Banquet on Thursday, February 5th at the Holiday Inn Downtown Fresno.
Regarded as perhaps, "pound-for-pound the greatest athlete to ever come out of Fresno State," Fibber Hirayama has been a fixture in the Central Valley for almost 80 years, and is already a member of the Fresno State Baseball Wall of Fame and the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
As a 12-year old during World War II, Hirayama was moved with his family to an internment camp in Arizona, where he continued to play baseball and football. After returning to the Valley at the conclusion of the war, he was offered a football scholarship to Fresno State University, but wound up making his mark on the baseball diamond instead. His incredible speed on the basepaths led to two records that stood for more than 40 years: 76 stolen bases in a season and five stolen bases in one game.
After graduation, Hirayama was signed by the St. Louis Browns, one of the first Japanese American to be signed to a professional baseball contract, and ultimately played 10 professional seasons in Japan for the Hiroshima Carp. Following his playing career, Hirayama scouted for the Carp and California Angels, was a Clovis Unified School District teacher and administrator for 30 years, and is currently the head of the Japanese Baseball Development Program in the Dominican Republic.