Friday, April 27, 2012

Atsunori Inaba

Sometime this weekend, Atsunori Inaba of the Fighters most likely will get his 2000th hit - he homered yesterday for hit number 1999.  I thought I'd do a little retrospective on him in anticipation of his milestone (since I have time right now but might not later).

Inaba attended Hosei University from 1991 to 1994.  He was drafted by the Swallows in the third round of the 1995 draft (conducted in the fall of 1994).  He debuted for the Swallows during the 1995 season, appearing in that year's Nippon Series against the Orix Blue Wave.  (His BBM rookie card is #554 in the 1995 set, which I don't have, but he also appears in that year's Nippon Series set - #S20)

2011 Legend Of Tokyo Big 6 #095
1995 BBM Nippon Series #S20
He spent the 1995-96 offseason playing for the West Oahu Canefires of the Hawaiian Winter League with future fellow NBP players Gabe Kapler and Matt Skrmetta.

1996 HWL Canefires

He remained with Yakult through the 2004 season, returning to the Nippon Series again in 1997 and 2001. He set a record in the 1997 Series for more hits (10) in a five game series and won one of the "Outstanding Player" awards for that Series.

1997 BBM Nippon Series "Outstanding Player" #S61
2002 Calbee #095
He joined the Fighters before the 2005 season and has been in Sapporo ever since.  He's gotten a lot more playing time with the Fighters than he had with the Swallows, having gotten over 500 plate appearances every year in Hokkaido except his first while only once having more than that in his 10 seasons with Yakult.  He appeared in three more Nippon Series (2006, 2007 and 2009), winning the Series MVP award in for the 2006 Series.  He won the Pacific League batting championship in 2007 along with leading the league in hits.

2005 BBM 2nd Version 1st Version Update #562
2009 BBM 1st Version #100
Inaba made the All Star team twice when he was with the Swallows (1997 and 2001) and another 5 times (2007-11) with the Fighters.  He was the number one vote getter in 2009 and was MVP of the third All Star game in 2011.  He also made the post-season Best 9 team five times, once with the Swallows in 2001 and 2006-09 with the Fighters.

2001 BBM All Stars #A35

2007 BBM All Stars #A30
In addition, Inaba was named to Team Japan for both the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He does not appear in any of the card sets Topps put out for the 2009 WBC but he does show up in the 2008 BBM Olympic team set.

2008 BBM Japanese National Team #JPN27

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