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Four years in Japan and George Arias says he is finally where he had always longed to be as a player — at the very top.

“It’s been phenomenal. It’s times like these we play for,” said Hanshin Tigers first baseman Arias of the social impact his team has been creating in Japan of late.

“The (Yomiuri) Giants have always been ‘the team’ here, and now it’s us. I knew we had many fans, but didn’t know we had this many,” he said before a packed Jingu Stadium on Thursday.

Although Arias is careful to point out the ultimate goal has not been fulfilled just yet, he is also aware the front-running Central League club has what it takes to clinch its first pennant in 18 years and to go a step further by taking home the Japan Series trophy.

With a team batting average of .298 and a 17-game advantage after 97 games, how can one not have high expectations of what the future holds?

“Not only is every single player in the starting lineup doing their job, but we have a great bullpen and guys coming off the bench are doing what they have to. It’s a mixture of everything,” he said.

Arias says he has never been easily distracted by outside pressure so he is able to maintain his calm, only amazed to find that the outcome of a single baseball team’s season can have such obvious and positive effects on Japan’s prolonged economic depression.

“If I can look back and say I was part of history here, that would be great. Things are so expensive in Japan anyway, I’d like to help the economy,” he said.

Win or lose, to Arias life is not all about the crowd and the game. After two years with the Orix BlueWave and two years with the Tigers, Arias is ready to close one door and open another, making way for what is most important to him.

“I would like to play another season if I’m invited back, but I don’t know after that. Baseball will only be around for a little while. But my family will be around for the rest of my life,” said the 31-year-old father.

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