Saturday, November 2, 2019

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama

Longtime Tokyo Yakult Swallows first baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama announced his retirement back in mid-September.  He was originally drafted by the team out of high school in the fifth round of the 2000 draft.  He spent his first couple years exclusively on the farm team, not making his debut with the ichi-gun squad until 2004.  It wasn't until 2008 that he was a regular on the top team although he spent a lot of time back on the farm in 2009 and 2010.  He was pretty much the Swallows starting first baseman for five years starting in 2011 (although he again was demoted in late 2013 due to poor hitting), culminating it what was probably his best season in 2015 when his 26 home runs and 105 RBIs helped lead the team to the Nippon Series.  Injuries cost him most of the next two seasons and while he was healthy in 2018, he only hit .248 in a backup role in 75 games.  He spent almost all of 2019 with the farm team - his only ichi-gun appearance was in his retirement game on September 21st.

He was a two time All Star (2011 & 2012) and was the MVP of All Star Game 1 in 2011.  He was somewhat controversially snubbed for the All Star team in 2015 by Giants manager Tatsunori Hara who instead selected Takahiro Suzuki, Yomiuri's pinch running specialist.  He led the Central League in RBIs in 2015, part of the Swallows Triple Crown that season as teammates Shingo Kawabata won the batting crown and Tetsuto Yamada led the CL in home runs.  He won a Best 9 award once (2015) and the Golden Glove award twice (2012 & 2015).  He played in just one Nippon Series, losing to the Hawks in 2015.

His first BBM card was #349 in 2001 but he didn't have another BBM card until the 2004 Swallows team set (BBM's first "comprehensive" team set for the Swallows) and he didn't have his second BBM "flagship" card until the 2008 2nd Version set.  His first Calbee card wasn't until 2008 (#239).  Here's a bunch of cards from his career:

2001 BBM #349

2005 BBM Swallows #S67

2008 BBM 2nd Version #620

2011 BBM All Stars #A71

2011 Swallows Team Issued Set #YsS17

2012 Calbee #190

2013 BBM 1st Version #382

2015 Bandai Owners League 01 #036

2016 Calbee "Title Holder" #T-18

2019 BBM Swallows #S52
And yes, he's wearing a throwback Yakult Atoms uniform in that 2008 card.

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