FORT MYERS, Fla. — Scott Atchison knows he could have made a lot more money in Japan. But he also realizes it was a lot more important to be back in the United States.
Atchison finished 2009 as a valuable commodity, having performed admirably out of the Hanshin Tigers’ bullpen for a second straight season. One agent estimated the 33-year-old could have made as much as $3 million if he chose to continue his career path in Japan. But he didn’t, and now he finds himself on the back fields at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility vying for a spot in the Sox’ bullpen with a contract that could pay him $430,000.
The decision was an easy one for a very uneasy reason.
“My family wanted to come back,” said Atchison after a workout at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility. “We have two-year old and she has a couple medical issues that are minor stuff but we wanted to be around here for it.”
Atchison’s daugther’s “medical issues” might be considered somewhat minor, but they are issues just the same. The kind of which were enough of a concern that staying another season in Japan wasn’t an option.
Callie was born with a rare condition called “TAR” (Thrombocytopenia-absent radius), which is characterized by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm, along with a dramatically reduced platelet count. It is a problem that promises to improve, but also requires specialized medical attention at this stage.
“We feel more comfortable over here,” the 6-foot-2 righty said. “The medical stuff over there was good but it’s not the same.
“She’s done really done well, never had a problem with her platelet. She uses her hands great. It’s unbelievable to see the things she does. She still needs to work on different things and it really is restricted because the radius is the inside bone so the thumb is very weak. They get better. She will always have a little different use of her hands compared to the person with normal hands. It’s nothing major, but we just felt a little more comfortable being over here.”
The decision of Atchison to choose the Red Sox should come as no surprise. After playing with the San Francisco Giants in 2007, he had signed with the Sox on Dec. 7 before ultimately choosing to leave for Japan two weeks later. There was also the prospects of playing in a city where medical help was as abundant as anywhere in the major leagues.
“Anywhere over here was going to be fine. We could take care of anything she needed. Mostly, it was being back in the States so if she needed to see her doctors it’s a four hour flight at the most to Texas instead of 14 hours,” said Atchison, who figures to be fighting for the final spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen. “I like to have my family with me wherever we are going and them coming back and forth over the Pacific Ocean wasn’t in the realm of things. We’re happy with Boston because anything and everything we cold possibly need we can get.
“I still feel like I can pitch and do it in the major leagues, so we wanted to come back and try it over here. It all worked out.”