Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tomochika Tsuboi

Former Tiger, Fighter and Buffaloe Tomochika Tsuboi announced his retirement a few weeks back.  Like Masao Kida, it had been a couple of years since his last appearance in NPB.

Tsuboi attended Aoyama Gakuin University in the Tohto League from 1992 to 1995.  Following his graduation, he spent a couple years playing for Toshiba in the industrial leagues.

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #74
He was drafted by the Hanshin Tigers in the fourth round of the November, 1997 draft.  His BBM and Calbee rookie cards were both in the respective 1998 sets - his BBM rookie was #370 and his Calbee rookie was #087.

1998 BBM #370
After a couple strong seasons to begin his NPB career, Tsuboi started to tail off.  Much of the decline was due to injuries.  He spent much of the 2001 and 2002 seasons at ni-gun.

2001 Upper Deck #100
Following the 2002 season, he was traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters for Toshihiro Noguchi.  He bounced back in his first season with the Fighters (in their final season in Tokyo), hitting .330 and playing in over 100 games for the first time since 2000.  He got the first hit ever by a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighter by singling off of Hisashi Iwakuma and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes on Opening Day in 2004.

2004 BBM 1st Version #146 (Facsimile Signature Parallel)
His numbers again declined following the 2003 season, again mostly due to nagging injuries.  Ultimately the Fighters released him following the 2010 season.  He signed with the Orix Buffaloes for the 2011 season, but he ended up only making 3 appearances with the ichi-gun team.  He never appeared in a BBM "flagship" set as a member of the Buffaloes but oddly enough he showed up in BBM's "Historic Collection" set for 2012 - the "Strongest Generation" set.  He appears in the "1973 Generation" subset which is a bit odd as he was actually born in 1974.  (He did appear in the 2011 BBM Buffaloes team set also.)

2012 BBM Strongest Generation #081
He was let go by Orix following the 2011 season and, like Masao Kida would do a year later, he decided to try to continue his career by signing with an independent league team.  Unlike Kida, however, he decided to do this in North America rather than Japan.  He split the 2012 season between three teams - the San Rafael Pacifics of the North American League (24 games), the Gary Southshore Railcats of the American Association (5 games) and the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWinds of the North American League (9 games).  He got into only 12 games in 2013, all with the Edinburg Roadrunners in the United League.  2014 saw him briefly play for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League - while he was somehow affiliated with the team the entire season, he was only officially on the roster from mid-June to early August and only appeared in 9 games (one of which I was lucky enough to see).

As far as I know, there are no cards of him with any of the indy teams he's been with the last few years.

Tsuboi never lead the league in any major category but his rookie season was recognized by Central League with a "CL Special Award" that was commemorated by BBM in their 1999 "flagship" set (#543):

1999 BBM #543

He made the All Star team twice, in 2000 and 2003.  He played in three Nippon Series, winning it all in 2006 and playing on the losing side in 2007 and 2009.

2003 Calbee #AS-52

2009 BBM Nippon Series #S54
One interesting thing about Tsuboi that I did not know until I started working on this post is that his father, Shinzaburo Tsuboi, played for the Dragons and Lions between 1970 and 1977.  I don't have any cards of the elder Tsuboi and to be completely honest, I'm not sure that any exist.

No comments: