I just got back from the weekend and was reading news and had a HUGE shock when I saw that Hiroyuki Oze died on Friday. At first I figured it must be a typo, or I was misreading it (originally saw the news in Japanese), or something. Oze-kun? MY high-socks-wearing, speedy-running, cute-smiling lefty-batting up-and-coming young awesome outfielder? *WHAT?!*
Unfortunately, no, it seems to be true. Worse, it seems to have been suicide. Various sources indicate that Oze had been depressed for a while since his mother died when he was in college, and he had even sent emails to some friends the night before saying "Thank you for everything until now", and then his body was found unconscious and bleeding on the roof area over the second floor of the hotel the team was staying in; I think he was staying on the 10th floor.
If you've been around this blog for a while, you may know that Oze was actually pretty much my favorite Orix Buffaloes player these last two years. Not sure exactly how it happened beyond me just noticing his high socks first and then realizing he was an awesome young player shortly afterwards. Nadya and I used to talk about him being the secret gem buried in the Orix lineup; I kind of saw him as an outfield version of Shunichi Nemoto from the Marines, who was another one of those hardworking exciting young college-drafted guys who tore up the minors and who you really wanted to see succeed rather than get lost in the shuffle.
Oze was only 24 years old. I feel terrible for his family -- he was recently married, even. That's got to be really tough to deal with for them, for all the players and the fans as well, seeing such a bright young man with such potential ending his life like this. I really thought this year was going to be a breakout for him, especially with more playing time in the outfield likely to open up. I mean, I'm not an Orix fan, certainly, but there are usually one or two players I secretly pull for on just about any team, and Oze was my guy for the Buffaloes. Urgh.
Well, I just went back and cropped a few photos that I took of Oze last spring in Chiba, which I felt were kinda stalkerish at the time, but seriously, I *really* liked him. So here's a few of those and a few other Oze-related photos from earlier posts here..
Oze in the dugout at Chiba, April 29 2009. He had started on the bench, though he came into the game later on as a pinch-runner, stole a base, played left field for a bit and hit a pop fly out.
Same game, Oze during batting practice. He was in the last group to bat.
Playing catch with Tuffy Rhodes between innings.
Another pregame shot of him.
And a few other images...
From April 26 at Skymark:
The scoreboard at Skymark with Oze's at-bat cartoon, in the lineup.
And my view of him. I have more shots like this than I care to admit, as this is generally how I saw him, standing in front of the Fighters ouendan. One of my friends used to make fun of me like "There's your Orix boyfriend!"
From the Kiyohara farewell at Seibu day, Sept 29 2008:
Oze during batting practice with Makoto Moriyama. I tried so hard to get a shot of him that day and also failed.
Also Sept 2008, the first time I actually sat in the infield at the Osaka Dome, so I could see the scoreboard:
Seriously, this sucks. I don't know any other way to put it. Every time I see Orix this year, I am going to be thinking of him. I'm sure a lot of other people will be too.