Monday, July 18, 2016

Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima announced his retirement today.  He was originally drafted out of high school by the Yomiuri Giants in the third round of the fall 1993 draft  and debuted with them in 1995.  He was a starter for his first couple seasons but by 1999 he had moved into the middle relief role that he excelled in for the bulk of his career.  He was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in March of 2006 for Kazunari Sanematsu and Shigeyuki Furuki.  After one season with the Fighters, he left Japan for MLB, signing a two year deal with the Boston Red Sox.  He ended up staying with the Red Sox until the end of the 2011 season,  He briefly signed with the Yankees for 2012 but after he failed his physical, he was released.  He returned to Japan and signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.  Following the 2012 season he returned to the US and signed with the Oakland Athletics.  He split the season between Oakland and their AAA team in Sacramento.  He went back to Japan and the Hawks for the 2014 season then spent 2015 with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.  He attempted to return to the US for the 2016 season by going to spring training with the Baltimore Orioles but he was released just before the season started (ironically his photo on his Baseball-Reference profile is his head shot from the Orioles).

He was a four time All Star - three times in NPB (2000-02) and one time in MLB (2007).  He was a five time champion - four Nippon Series championships (2000, 2002, 2006 and 2014) and one World Series championship (2007).  I believe he has the only five time winner of any player who has won championships in both NPB and MLB.

His first baseball card was #483 from the 1994 BBM set.  His first Calbee card was not until the 1997 set (#222).

1994 BBM #483

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S7

2002 BBM All Stars #A36

2006 BBM 2nd Version #511

2012 Calbee #151

2015 BBM 1st Version #275
One side note - Okajima spent the winter of 1996-97 pitching in the Hawaiian Winter League with the Honolulu Sharks.  He made the team's baseball card set:

1996 HWL Honolulu Sharks Team Set #8


Tony Burbs said...

My goodness - he looks like such a baby on that rookie!

NPB Card Guy said...

He was 18 years old in that photo.