Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tomohiro Nioka

It's been about 10 days since the announcement but I'm just now getting around to writing about it:  Tomohiro Nioka of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters has decided to retire.

Tomohiro Nioka was taken in the second round of the 1999 draft (held in the fall of 1998) by the Giants (their first round pick that year was Koji Uehara).  He was immediately installed as starting shortstop in 1999 and would remain there until giving way to Hayato Sakamoto in 2008.

Nioka's rookie cards were #330 in the 1999 BBM set and #087 in the 1999 Calbee set.

1999 BBM #330

1999 Calbee #087

Nioka remained with the Giants until the end of 2008.  He had a number of productive years but was only able to win one Best 9 award (it was difficult to dislodge either Takuo Ishii or Hirokazu Ibata from that award).

2000 BBM Yomiuri Shimbun Giants "Victory Road" #08

2004 BBM 1st Version Best 9 insert #BN16

After a 2008 season that saw him have drastically reduced playing time due to Hayato Sakamoto and Michihiro Ogasawara having much better seasons, an ankle injury and a scandal in his personal life (he was caught cheating on his wife), the Giants traded him to the Fighters in a deal that brought Michael Nakamura  to the Giants.  He rebounded somewhat his first two years with Nippon Ham only played a little over a full season's worth of games at the ichi-gun level his last three years.

2009 BBM Rookie Edition #123

2013 BBM 1st Version #179
Over the course of his career, Nioka made the All Star team seven times - 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006 with the Giants and 2009 and 2010 with the Fighters.  He appeared in four Nippon Series - winning with the Giants in 2000 and 2002 (in which he was Series MVP) and losing with Fighters in 2009 and 2012 (against his old team both times).  He also played for the Japan National Team in the 2003 Asia Championship, the qualifier for the 2004 Olympics.

2006 BBM All Stars #A58

2012 BBM Nippon Series #S56

2003 BBM Japan National Team #19

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