Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kazunari Tsuruoka

Hanshin Tigers catcher Kazunari Tsuroka has decided to hang up his cleats after a 21 year career in NPB.  He was the fifth round draft pick for the Yokohama Baystars in the fall 1995 draft out of Shinko Gakuen High School.  He didn't debut with the ichi-gun team until almost five years after he was drafted.  He spent a few years in the 00's as the primary backup catcher for Yokohama behind Motonobu Tanishige, Takeshi Nakamura and Ryoji Aikawa before being traded to the Yomiuri Giants in June of 2008 for Hiroki Sanada where he would again be the primary backup catcher, this time for Shinnosuke Abe.  A shoulder injury to Abe pressed Tsuruoka into the starting role for the Nippon Series in 2008 which the Giants lost to the Lions.  He left the Giants as a free agent following the 2011 season and returned to Yokohama.  He was the starting catcher for the Baystars for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the only time in his career that he was a team's number one catcher.  After two seasons in Yokohama he was on the move again - this time to the Hanshin Tigers as compensation for the Baystars signing Yasutomo Kubo.  He pretty much split the starting catcher duties his first two seasons with the Tigers (with Ryutaro Umeno in 2014 and Akihito Fujii in 2015) but spent most of 2016 with the farm team.  He did appear in his second Nippon Series, starting a couple games in the 2014 Series in a losing effort against the Hawks.

His BBM rookie card is #491 from the 1996 set.  He doesn't appear on another baseball card until BBM's Baystars team set in 2003 and doesn't appear in another BBM flagship set until 2005.  He only ever had one Calbee card (2009's #258) but he did appear in sets from Konami, Bandai and Front Runner.

1996 BBM #491

2006 BBM 1st Version #306

2008 BBM Baystars #YB40

2008 BBM Nippon Series #S42

2009 Giants Winning Game Card #4

2013 Front Runner Baystars Season Summary #18

2016 BBM 1st Version #228

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