Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hitoki Iwase

Long time Chunichi Dragons relief pitcher Hitoki Iwase formally announced his retirement back at the beginning of October.  Iwase was a second round pick of his home-prefecture Dragons out of NTT Tokai of the corporate leagues in the fall 1998 draft (Kosuke Fukudome was the team's first round pick that year).  He spent a few years working in middle relief for the Dragons before new manager Hiromitsu Ochiai moved him into the closer's role in 2004.  He sent an NPB record for most saves in a season with 46 in 2005 - this is still the Central League record although Dennis Sarfate of the Hawks broke the record with 54 in 2017).  He remained the Dragons' closer through 2014 but after that injuries prevented him from pitching much.  He missed the entire 2015 season and only got into 15 games in 2016.  He spent the past two seasons back in a middle relief role.  He holds the NPB record for most saves with 407 and most pitching appearances with 1002.

He lead the league in "Middle Relief" three times (1999, 2000 and 2003) and saves five times (2005-06, 2009-10 and 2012).  He appeared in six Nippon Series (1999, 2004, 2006-07, 2010-11), getting the final out of the deciding game of the 2007 Series, the only one the Dragons won of the six (the game was also a combined perfect game between him and Daisuke Yamai).  He made the All Star team ten times (2000-01, 2003, 2005-07, 2010-13).  He was a member of the Japanese Olympic Baseball Team in 2004 and 2008 and also played for the National Team in the 2003 Asian Championship which was a qualifier for the 2004 Summer Games.

Iwase's BBM rookie card was #311 from the 1999 set.  His first Calbee card was #035 from the 2000 set.

1999 BBM #311

2001 Upper Deck #52

2004 BBM 1st Version "Asian Championship 2003" #AJ3

2006 BBM 1st Version #458

2007 BBM Nippon Series #S04

2008 Calbee #109

2010 BBM 1st Version #038

2012 BBM All Stars #A43

2014 BBM 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition #94

2018 BBM 1st Version #274

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