Sunday, May 22, 2011
Card Of The Week May 22
I solved a bit of a mystery (to me anyway) last week but I've uncovered a new one I think. The above card is #499 in the 1997 BBM set. The player depicted is Akira Itoh - his last name was the mystery I finally tracked down last week. It was difficult to track him down because he never actually appeared in an ichi-gun game. I finally downloaded the players database from JapaneseBaseball.com and found him in there by matching his birthdate (12-21-1978). So at the time of this card, he's 18 years old. According to the back of the card, he was drafted in the first round by Yakult in the 1997 draft (held in October of 1996). He's obviously a big deal, as not only is he a first round pick and not only does he go by his first name, he's been assigned uniform #11. The last player before him to wear #11 was Daisuke Araki - not a great pitcher, but also a first round pick (1983). Another first rounder, Yoshinori Satoh, is the current owner of the number. So I think great things were expected from Akira. But it didn't happen. According to "Player Number History", Itoh was on the Swallows roster (or at least had #11) from 1997 to 1999 (just now noticed he had #64 in 2000 and started going by his full name). I haven't seen any evidence that he ended up with another team, although that's certainly possible. As far as I can tell, this is his only baseball card. So what happened? Did he get hurt? Was he a head case? Did he just decide that he really didn't want to be a baseball player? It just seems odd to me that a first round pick wouldn't at least get one appearance with the big team (although the Swallows were a pretty good team during that time, so maybe it just didn't work out).
I'd appreciate any information anyone has about this.