The original plan when I started this series of posts was to be done by the WBC final or at least by Opening Day. Well, here it is, Opening Day in the States and I still have six more posts left. Sometimes things don't go as planned.
Number six on the career home run list with 510 is Hiromitsu Ochiai. Ochiai is one of the more unique players in NBP history. After playing in the industrial leagues for a few years, he signed with Lotte in 1978 but didn't become a regular until 1981 when he was 28 years old. Between 1982 and 1986 he won the Triple Crown twice and the Pacific League MVP award three times. Here's his 1984 Takara Kids card:
1986 Calbee #205:
Following the 1986 season, the Orions hired Michio Arito as manager. Arito was a traditionalist when it came to training and didn't like Ochiai's refusal to conform to the rigorous training that was considered normal at the time. He decided it would be better for the Orions to trade Ochiai to the Dragons. They got four players for him. I haven't been able to figure out who they got for him, but it doesn't matter - they got the raw end of the deal.
He played for the Dragons from 1987 through 1993. Here's his 1989 Calbee card (#336):
1992 BBM #315:
He joined the Giants in 1994 and played for them through 1996. Here's his 1995 BBM card (#50):
1996 BBM All Stars #A6:
When the Giants signed Kazuhiro Kiyohara following the 1996 season, they releasd Ochiai. The Nippon Ham Fighters signed him (at the time, the Fighters shared the Tokyo Dome with the Giants, so he didn't have to move!) and he spent the next two seasons with them. Here's his 1997 Diamond Heroes Rivals card with Ichiro (#289):
1998 BBM #453 (his last "regular" BBM card):
He retired after the 1998 season. In 2004, the Dragons named him manager. He led the Dragons to the Nippon Series in 2004, 2006 and 2007. They won the Series in 2007 for the first time since 1954. Here's his card from the 2006 BBM Central League Champion set (#01):