Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hiroki Kokubo

It took longer than anyone expected but today Hiroki Kokubo of the Hawks became the latest player (and third this season) to reach 2000 hits.  Kokubo had been stuck for a month at 1999 hits due to some back issues, but he singled in his first game back from the injury to reach the milestone.

Kokubo was drafted by the Hawks out of Aoyama Gakuin University in 1993 (the "1994" draft).  His BBM and Takara rookie cards are in the 1994 set (#531 for BBM, #9 for Takara in the Hawks set).  His first Calbee card is in the 1995 set (#162).

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #73

94 Takara Hawks #9
Kokubo became a mainstay for the Hawks through the 2002 season - although he missed a great deal of the 1998 season after becoming implicated in a tax fraud scheme.  He suffered an injury during the preseason in 2003 which caused him to miss the entire season.

96 Calbee #34

2000 Power League #004
Following the 2003 season, the Hawks sent Kokubo to the Giants for nothing.  That's right - nothing.  I remember there being speculation at the time that this was a gesture by Daiei to get the Giants to lean towards approving whoever Daiei ended up selling the Hawks to (which was ultimately Softbank).  He resumed right where he had left off before the injury and ended up winning the Central League Comeback Player of the Year award in 2004.  He remained with Yomiuri until the end of the 2006 season.

2005 BBM Giants #G047
He left the Giants as a free agent and returned to Fukuoka where he has remained ever since.

2008 BBM Hawks 70th Anniversary #95

2009 BBM Hawks #H99
Kokubo has been named to 13 All Star teams since 1995, missing only 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2010 during that span (although he did not actually play in the 1998 or 2006 games).

2005 BBM All Stars #A10

He's only played in three Nippon Series (1999, 2000 and 2011), all with the Hawks.  He was named MVP in last year's Series, becoming the oldest player to ever win that award.

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S47

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