Sunday, August 9, 2020

Card Of The Week August 9

The Yomiuri Giants were not having a good time last Thursday night in Nishinomiya.  The Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi had held them to just three hits while striking out 11 over seven innings.  Meanwhile Hanshin had knocked Giants starter CC Mercedes out of the game in the fourth inning.  Mercedes had given up four runs but a succession of Giants relievers held the Tigers scoreless until the bottom of the eighth when it all collapsed on them.  The Tigers slapped around Hayato Horioka (who had just moved from the ikusei ranks to the 70 man roster in late July) for seven runs, four of which came on a grand slam by Masahiro Nakatani.  Horioka faced eight batters and only got one of them out.

At this point Giants manager Tatsunori Hara made an unusual move.  Instead of bringing in another pitcher, Hara instead tapped infielder Daiki Masuda to take the mound.  This is a pretty much unheard of move in Japan.  To paraphrase Jim Allen, between games being limited to a maximum number of innings (normally 12 but 10 this year) and the ichi-gun roster having 29 players of which 25 are active (26 active players on a 31 player roster this year) there's usually more than enough bullpen pitchers available that a manager doesn't have to ask a position player to pitch.  But Hara had evidently decided the Giants were short and had Masuda come in and pitch.

Masuda didn't pitch badly.  He came in with no one on base (courtesy of Nakatani's grand slam) and got Koji Chikamoto to ground out to second, walked Taiga Egoshi (although catcher Takumi Ohshiro though he'd struck Egoshi out) and then got Yusuke Ohyama to fly out to deep right field.   Here's a video clip showing all 13 of his pitches (6 balls and 7 strikes):



Masuda's got an interesting background.  He dropped out of Kinki University in his second year there and ended up joining the Tokushima Indigo Socks of the Shikoku Island League in 2014.  He spent two seasons with the team and was part of the league's 2015 All Star squad that played in North America in the Can-Am League (I saw him play in Little Falls, NJ against the New Jersey Jackals).  He was taken by the Giants that fall in the first round of the ikusei draft.  He got registered on the 70 man roster in mid-2017 and made his debut with the ichi-gun team in April of 2019.  He's Hara's favorite backup outfielder/pinch runner - taking over the role that Takahiro Suzuki used to have.

The last time a position player appeared as a pitcher was over 20 years ago.  On June 3, 2000, Orix BlueWave infielder Akihito Igarashi pulled the "play all nine positions in a game" stunt and as a result pitched one inning against the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.  He gave up one hit but otherwise had an unremarkable inning.  Igarashi is the second player to ever do the nine positions in one game thing - Nippon-Ham Fighters catcher Hiroshi Takahashi did it on September 29, 1974 against the Nankai Hawks.  (The Hawks were Takahashi's former team - he was one of the other two players Nankei sent to the San Francisco Giants organization with Masanori Murakami in 1964.)

Beyond these three times I only know of one other time that a position player took the mound and it wasn't in a regular season game.  On July 21, 1996 at the Tokyo Dome in the second of the three All Star games that season, a 22 year old outfielder for the Orix BlueWave took the mound with two outs in the top of the ninth in a game the Pacific League was leading 7-3:



The batter Ichiro was supposed to face was Hideki Matsui but it looks like Central League manager Katsuya Nomura didn't think it was a good idea risking the Giants top star and instead sent up relief pitcher Shingo Takatsu.  So yeah, it's a pitcher pinch hitting against an outfielder pitching.  Takatsu ended up grounding out to shortstop to end the game.

I thought I'd share cards of Masuda (2018 BBM Giants #G55) and Igarashi (2000 BBM #314) as well as a card commemorating Ichiro's pitching appearance (2000 BBM All Stars #A72):




Saturday, August 8, 2020

Calbee Rookies

I had expressed some surprise last week when I discovered that Seiya Inoue of the Marines had had a Calbee card in 2014 despite not having been a first round pick in the 2013 draft.  I had been under the impression that Calbee didn't do rookie cards of anyone who wasn't a first round pick.  I decided to look into this this week and I discovered that not only was I wrong but also that Calbee's policy on who they do rookie cards for seems to change from year to year.

I want to define my terms here before I go any further.  In general when you talk about "modern" era (post-1990) rookie cards of NPB players, you are talking about cards that are issued for a player in the year after they were drafted.  Keep in mind that the draft historically has been held in late-October or November so it is near impossible for the drafted players to have cards in the year they were drafted (to my knowledge it's only happened with the Epoch One cards in 2018 for the Dragons' picks and 2019 for the picks for the Dragons and Swallows).  Also keep in mind that the "rookie" designation as it applies to baseball cards has no relationship to the player's "rookie" status.  For example the two winners of the Rookie Of The Year Award last season - Munetaka Murakami of the Swallows and Rei Takahashi of the Hawks - were both drafted in the fall of 2017 and their rookie cards are all from 2018.

Since 1994, BBM has done a "regular" card for each of the draft picks (all the non-ikusei draft picks to be exact) in the following year's "flagship" set - so the 1994 set had all the 1993 draft picks, the 1995 set had all the 1994 draft picks, etc.  Epoch has done the same thing with their NPB sets the past three years.  But Calbee doesn't do this.  It's not a huge surprise that they don't since Calbee's "flagship" sets are much smaller than either BBM's or Epoch's.  But as we will see, Calbee has no consistent policy on who gets a rookie card.

2012 Calbee #137
I started getting complete Calbee sets in 2012 so I started my analysis there.  Calbee issued cards for nine rookies that year.  Only three of those players were first round picks.  There were also cards for three second round picks along with a third, fourth and eighth(!) round pick.  All the cards were "regular" player cards - none of the cards appeared in any of the subsets - and all of them were from either Series Two or Series Three.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Fujioka, Takahiro Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two 106
Kamata, Yoshinao Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 2 Three 170
Kawabata, Takayoshi Orix Buffaloes 8 Three 169
Koishi, Hirotaka Saitama Seibu Lions 2 Three 161
Masuda, Naoya Chiba Lotte Marines 4 Three 179
Nakaushiro, Yuhei Chiba Lotte Marines 2 Three 177
Nomura, Yusuke Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two 137
Tajima, Shinji Chunichi Dragons 3 Three 187
Togame, Ken Saitama Seibu Lions 1 Two 089

2013 Calbee #091

2013 Calbee #D-01

2013 Calbee #AS-22
In 2013, Calbee included 16 rookie cards in their set although one player (Shohei Ohtani) had two cards so there were 15 total rookies in the set.  The bulk of the rookie cards were in a Series Two subset called "Exciting Rookie" that contained a card for each of the 2012 first round draft picks.  Ohtani's other card was in the All Star subset.  The only "regular" rookie cards were for two second rounders and one third rounder.  Once again there were no rookie cards in Series One.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Fujinami, Shintaro Hanshin Tigers 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-05
Fukutani, Koji Chunichi Dragons 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-02
Higashihama, Nao Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-09
Ishiyama, Taichi Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-03
Kagiya, Yohei Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3 Three 197
Masuda, Tatsushi Saitama Seibu Lions 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-08
Matsuba, Takahiro Orix Buffaloes 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-12
Matsunaga, Takahiro Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-11
Mishima, Kazuki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2 Three 190
Mori, Yudai Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-10
Ogawa, Yasuhiro Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2 Two 091
Ohtani, Shohei Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-07
Ohtani, Shohei Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 Three All Star AS-22
Shirasaki, Hiroyuki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-06
Sugano, Tomoyuki Yomiuri Giants 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-01
Takahashi, Hiroki Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two Exciting Rookie D-04

2014 Calbee #001

2014 Calbee #C-8
Not only did Calbee put rookie cards in Series One in 2014 but the very first card in the checklist that year was a rookie card of Yuki Matsui.  There were 19 total rookie cards in the set which is tied with 2018 for the most in the years that I studied.  Four rookies had multiple cards so there was a total of 15 different rookies with cards in the set - this is the most rookies in a Calbee set from 2012-20.  Almost all the cards were "regular" cards - the only subset cards were two Checklist cards.  There were cards for five of the first round picks, five of the second round picks, one third rounder, two fourth round picks, and one fifth and sixth round pick.  (And I was wrong in my post the other day when I said Ayumu Ishikawa didn't have a card in the set - I had missed his Checklist card.)

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Inoue, Seiya Chiba Lotte Marines 5 Two 104
Ishikawa, Ayumu Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two Checklist C-8
Iwazaki, Suguru Hanshin Tigers 6 Three 224
Kobayashi, Seiji Yomiuri Giants 1 Two 132
Kuri, Aren Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2 Two Checklist C-7
Kuri, Aren Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2 Three 226
Matsui, Yuki Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 One 001
Matsui, Yuki Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 Three 169
Mikami, Tomoya Yokohama DeNA Baystars 4 Three 244
Mori, Tomoya Saitama Seibu Lions 1 One 010
Nishiura, Naomichi Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2 Two 162
Ohsera, Daichi Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 One 059
Ohsera, Daichi Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Three 227
Tohmei, Daiki Orix Buffaloes 2 Three 201
Toyoda, Takuya Saitama Seibu Lions 3 Three 177
Umeno, Ryutaro Hanshin Tigers 4 Three 221
Urano, Hiroshi Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 2 Three 208
Yoshida, Kazumasa Orix Buffaloes 1 Three 199
Yoshida, Yuta Chiba Lotte Marines 2 Three 187

2015 Calbee #019

2015 Calbee #ES-19
Calbee went from one of their highest number of rookie cards in 2014 to one of their lowest in 2015.  There were only six rookie cards in this year's set and half of them were in the "Exciting Scene" subset from Series Three.  There were four first rounders, a third rounder and a seventh rounder.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Anraku, Tomohiro Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 One 038
Arihara, Kohei Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 One 019
Nishino, Masahiro Orix Buffaloes 7 Three Exciting Scene ES-14
Noma, Takayoshi Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two 146
Takagi, Hayato Yomiuri Giants 3 Three Exciting Scene ES-19
Yamasaki, Yasuaki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Three Exciting Scene ES-23

2016 Calbee #034

2016 Calbee #C-6

2016 Calbee #ES-12
Calbee bounced back with over double the number of rookies in 2016 than they'd had in 2015.  There were 13 rookie cards for 10 different players.  Seven first round picks were included along with one pick each from the second, third and fourth rounds.   Eight of the cards were "regular" player cards while the rest were from subsets - three Checklist cards and two "Exciting Scene" cards.  Louis Okoye was the only rookie in Series One.  The bulk of the rookie cards (8 of them) were in Series Two.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Hara, Juri Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1 Two 113
Imanaga, Shota Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Two 144
Imanaga, Shota Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Three Exciting Scene ES-12
Mogi, Eigoro Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 3 Two 104
Mogi, Eigoro Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 3 Three Exciting Scene ES-06
Ogasawara, Shinnosuke Chunichi Dragons 1 Three 208
Okoye, Louis Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 One 034
Okoye, Louis Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 Three Checklist C-11
Sakurai, Toshiki Yomiuri Giants 1 Two 119
Takayama, Shun Hanshin Tigers 1 Two Checklist C-6
Tobashira, Yasutaka Yokohama DeNA Baystars 4 Two 141
Yokoyama, Hiroki Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2 Two Checklist C-8
Yoshida, Masataka Orix Buffaloes 1 Two 101

2017 Calbee #D-06

2017 Calbee #C-7
2017 was an unusual year for Calbee.  The "Hokkaido Potato Crisis" that year forced Calbee to cut back on production of potato chips and as a result they ultimately only issued two Series of cards that year.  All 15 of the rookie cards that year were subset cards in Series Two.  Calbee included a "Draft Pick" subset that featured all 12 of the first round picks and three of the four Series Two Checklist cards featured a rookie player.  Two of those Checklist rookies were first round picks leaving third round pick Sosuke Genda as the only non-first round draft pick from 2016 in the set.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Fujihira, Shoma Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 Two Draft Pick D-05
Genda, Sosuke Saitama Seibu Lions 3 Two Checklist C-7
Hamaguchi, Haruhiro Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Two Checklist C-6
Hamaguchi, Haruhiro Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Two Draft Pick D-09
Hori, Mizuki Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 Two Draft Pick D-01
Imai, Tatsuya Saitama Seibu Lions 1 Two Draft Pick D-04
Ohyama, Yusuke Hanshin Tigers 1 Two Draft Pick D-10
Sasaki, Chihaya Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two Checklist C-5
Sasaki, Chihaya Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two Draft Pick D-03
Tanaka, Seigi Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 1 Two Draft Pick D-02
Terashima, Naruki Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1 Two Draft Pick D-11
Yamaoka, Taisuke Orix Buffaloes 1 Two Draft Pick D-06
Yanagi, Yuya Chunichi Dragons 1 Two Draft Pick D-12
Yasaki, Takuya Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two Draft Pick D-07
Yoshikawa, Naoki Yomiuri Giants 1 Two Draft Pick D-08

2018 Calbee #193

2018 Calbee #D-12

2018 Calbee #C-7

2018 Calbee #ES-05
Calbee issued their standard three Series again in 2018 and included 19 rookie cards in them.  There were multiple cards for five of the players so there were 14 total rookies.  Most of the cards were subset cards and most of those came from the "Dora-Ichi" subset in Series One that featured cards of all 12 first rounders.  The other two rookies were both second round picks.  This was the most diverse in types of rookie cards of all the sets I looked at as there were rookie cards in the "regular" playing cards, the "Exciting Scene" subset and the Checklist cards as well as the "Dora-Ichi" cards.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Azuma, Katsuki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 One Dora-Ichi D-09
Baba, Kosuke Hanshin Tigers 1 One Dora-Ichi D-08
Fujioka, Yudai Chiba Lotte Marines 2 Three Exciting Scene ES-06
Kamizato, Kazuki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2 Two Checklist C-6
Kamizato, Kazuki Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2 Three 193
Kiyomiya, Kotaro Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 One Dora-Ichi D-05
Kiyomiya, Kotaro Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 Three Exciting Scene ES-05
Kondoh, Hiroki Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 One Dora-Ichi D-03
Kuwahara, Takuya Yomiuri Giants 1 One Dora-Ichi D-10
Murakami, Munetaka Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1 One Dora-Ichi D-12
Nakamura, Shosei Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 One Dora-Ichi D-07
Saito, Hiromasa Saitama Seibu Lions 1 One Dora-Ichi D-02
Suzuki, Hiroshi Chunichi Dragons 1 One Dora-Ichi D-11
Suzuki, Hiroshi Chunichi Dragons 1 Three 209
Tajima, Daiki Orix Buffaloes 1 One Dora-Ichi D-04
Tajima, Daiki Orix Buffaloes 1 Two Checklist C-7
Yasuda, Hisanori Chiba Lotte Marines 1 One Dora-Ichi D-06
Yasuda, Hisanori Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two 104
Yoshizumi, Haruto Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 1 One Dora-Ichi D-01

2019 Calbee #129
2019 took somewhat of a step back in terms of rookie cards.  For the first time since 2012 there were no rookie cards in any of the subsets - all eleven rookie cards were "regular" player cards.  This means that for the first time since 2016 there was no subset containing all the first rounders.  Nine of the twelve 2018 first round picks were included in the set along with a third rounder and a seventh rounder.  There were two rookies in Series One, four in Series Two and five in Series Three.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Chikamoto, Koji Hanshin Tigers 1 Two 141
Fujiwara, Kyota Chiba Lotte Marines 1 One 025
Kaino, Hiroshi Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 1 Three 153
Kamichatani, Taiga Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1 Two 129
Kinami, Seiya Hanshin Tigers 3 Two 139
Kozono, Kaito Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two 113
Matsumoto, Wataru Saitama Seibu Lions 1 Three 149
Nakagawa, Keita Orix Buffaloes 7 Three 168
Neo, Akira Chunichi Dragons 1 One 062
Tatsumi, Ryosuke Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 Three 177
Yoshida, Kosei Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1 Three 161

2020 Calbee #129
So far this year Calbee has only issued two of the expected three Series but at the moment I'd say that 2020 is looking like 2012 or 2019.  All four rookie cards were in Series Two and feature first rounders.

Player Team Round Series Subset Card No.
Ishikawa, Takaya Chunichi Dragons 1 Two 133
Morishita, Masato Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1 Two 129
Okugawa, Yasunobu Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1 Two 139
Sasaki, Roki Chiba Lotte Marines 1 Two 094

Monday, August 3, 2020

2013 & 2017 World Baseball Classic Roundup - Relics

As was the case for the 2006 and 2009 Tournaments, my original posts on the Japanese and Korean team cards for the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics pretty much ignored any memorabilia cards.  Once again I decided to do a post to try to summarize what's out there for the two teams from those two tournaments.

Topps only issued one set in 2013 that had any WBC relics - the high end "Topps Tribute WBC" set.  The base set contained 100 cards - 15 of which were Japanese players and another three were Korean ones.  There were "Prime Patch" cards available for eight members of the 15 Japanese players and two of the three Korean players.  Unlike every other year there were no memorabilia cards available for players who didn't have base set cards.

The "Prime Patch" cards were all serially numbered and there were up nine parallel versions available that had shorted print runs.  Here's a table that summarizes what's out there (according to TradingCardDB.com) - the numbers in each box are the print run for each card:

Player Team Prime Blue Green Orange Gold Red Black Purple Flag Logo
Honda, Yuichi Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Imamura, Takeru Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Inaba, Atsunori Japan 43 25 15 10 5 1 1
Maeda, Kenta Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Matsuda, Nobuhiro Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Ohtonori, Kenji Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Sugiuchi, Toshiya Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Utsumi, Tetsuya Japan 43 35 25 15 10 5 1 1
Lee, Dae-ho Korea 67 50 35 25 15 10 5 1 1 1
Seo, Jae-weong Korea 73 50 35 25 15 10 5 1 1 1

I don't know why Atsunori Inaba didn't have a Green parallel or why none of the Japanese players had a "Flag" parallel.  I suspect that no Japanese player had a Blue parallel because the print run for their "Prime Patch" version was already less than the 50 that all the other Blue parallels are.

I only have one "Prime Patch" card:
#WPP-NM
There were autograph cards of players from the 2013 tournament available in the set but there were no Japanese or Korean players among them.  However there was a seven card "Heroes" autographed insert set that featured players from past tournaments.  There were four Japanese players included - Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Akinori Iwamura and Kenji Johjima.  The Darvish cards were serially numbered to 20 while the Iwakuma cards went to 100 and Iwamura cards went to 200.  I'm not sure about the Johjima cards because they were available on an exchange basis.  The only one of these cards I have is Iwamura:
#TTWH-AI
For 2017 there were four different Topps sets that featured relics of members of the Japanese team.  As far as I can tell there were no relics available for any Korean players.

The first 2017 Topps set with WBC relics was Museum Collection.  This set had two separate WBC "Primary Pieces" relic insert sets - "Patch Relic" and "Quad Relic".  Each of these had three parallel versions.

There were "Patch Relic" cards for Norichika Aoki, Yuki Matsui, Hayato Sakamoto, Seiya Suzuki, Shota Takeda and Kosuke Tanaka.  The "regular" relics were serially numbered to 75 while the "Copper" parallels were numbered to 45, the "Gold" parallels were numbered to 10 and the "Emerald" parallels were numbered to 1.  I have the "Copper" parallels of four of these:
#WBCPR-YM

#WBCPR-SS

#WBCPR-ST

#WBCPR-KT
There were five players with "Quad Relics" - Shintaro Fujinami, Takahiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh and Tetsuya Yamada.  The "regular" relics were numbered to 99 while the "Copper" parallels went to 50, the "Gold" parallels went to 10 and the "Emerald" parallels were "1 of 1".  I have four of the five players - oddly enough three of them are the "Copper" versions:
#WBCQR-SF

#WBCQR-TN

#WBCQR-TS

#WBCQR-TY
The next set with WBC Relics was the Allen & Ginter set.  This set contained a "World Baseball Classic Relic" insert set that featured cards for Fujinami, Norimoto, Sugano, Tsutsugoh and Yamada.  All of the cards were serially numbered to 99.  In addition there were "Framed Mini" versions of the Tsutsugoh and Yamada cards that were numbered to 10.  The only card I have from this set is Tsutsugoh's:
#WBCR-YT
The Triple Threads set also had a "World Baseball Classic Relics" subset.  It contained cards for four Japanese players - Sakamoto, Tanaka, Tsutsugoh and Yamada.  In addition there was a "Combo" card featuring Sakamoto, Tsutsugoh and Yamada.  Each card (including the "Combo") was serially numbered to 36.  There were five different parallel versions of these cards - Silver (numbered to 27), Emerald (numbered to 18), Gold (numbered to 9), Sapphire (numbered to 3) and Ruby (1 of 1).  I have the "regular" version for Sakamoto and the "Combo" card:
#WBCR-HS

#WBCR-SYT
The final 2017 Topps set that had WBC relics was the Diamond Icons set.  This set had a "Single-Player Relic" insert set that included four members of the Japanese team - Norimoto, Sugano, Tsutsugoh and Yamada.  Each card was serially numbered to 10 and there were two parallel versions - Red (numbered to 5) and Gold (1 of 1).  I do not have any of these cards.

To summarize - there were relics available for eleven members of the 2017 Japanese WBC team.  All eleven players have a card in one of the two Museum Collection relic insert sets.  In addition Tsutsugoh and Yamada have relics in all three of the other sets with WBC relics while Norimoto and Sugano are in Allen & Ginter and Diamond Icons, Fujinami is in Allen & Ginter and Sakamoto and Tanaka are in Triple Threads.

These are the only 2017 WBC cards available for Matsui, Suzuki, Takeda and Tanaka.  The other seven players have also have "regular" cards (although the bulk of them were only available as "on-demand" Topps Now cards).

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Card Of The Week August 2

There was a wild game in Chiba last Tuesday night.  The Marines took on the visiting Eagles and jumped out to a 6-1 lead after three innings,   Half of those six runs scored on a pair of home runs by Marines' first baseman Seiya Inoue.  The Eagles scored four in the top of the fourth on a Stefan Romero grand slam to make it a one run game but the Marines came back with three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to pad it back to a 9-5 lead.

The Eagles then scored one run in the fifth and five in the sixth to take an 11-9 lead.  They added another run in the top of the eighth to make it 12-9.  But the Marines weren't done.  They scored three in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game on Inoue's third home run of the night.  In the bottom of the ninth, the Marines loaded the bases with one out before Eagles reliever JT Cargois hit Shogo Nakamura with a pitch, forcing in the winning run. 

Here are the highlights from the game:


This is actually the second game this season that the Marines have won on a walk off hit-by-pitch.

I thought I'd share Inoue's first Calbee card.  I was actually kind of surprised that Inoue had a card in the 2014 Calbee set as he was a fifth round pick in the 2013 draft and I was under the impression that Calbee normally didn't do rookie cards for players who weren't first round picks.  After doing a little research I found that there was another Marines rookie - Yuta Yoshida - who was also in that set but the Marines first rounder that year - Ayumu Ishikawa - would not have his first Calbee card until 2015.  I may do some more looking into this (especially now that the Olympics posts are done) but until then, here's Inoue's 2014 Calbee card (#104):


Saturday, August 1, 2020

2008 Japanese Olympic Baseball Team

On July 7, 2005, the International Olympic Committee voted to remove baseball and softball from the program for the 2012 London Olympics.  They did this basically due to frustration that despite the Olympics allowing professionals to play starting with the 2000 Sydney games MLB had refused to allow their players to participate.  Worse, MLB was starting their own international baseball tournament (the World Baseball Classic) the following March that they would allow the top players to play in.

Because of this, the 2008 Beijing Games would be the last Olympic games to include baseball for the foreseeable future (the decision to add them to the 2020 Tokyo Games did not happen until the summer of 2016).  Japan was determined not to repeat the failures of the 2000 and 2004 teams and to come away with a gold medal, especially after they won the inaugural WBC in 2006.  Shigeo Nagashima had hoped to recover enough from the stroke he suffered in early 2004 to coach the team but his condition did not improve enough to allow it.  Sadaharu Oh, the coach of the WBC team, was also considered before former Dragons pitcher and manager (as well as former Tigers manager) Senichi Hoshino was selected as the head coach of the team in late 2006.  Yutaka Ohno was named pitching coach for the team, reprising his role from the 2004 Athens team.  The other two coaches - Koichi Tabuchi (hitting) and Koji Yamamoto (defense/base running) - were close friends of Hoshino's.  The three players had all played college ball in the Tokyo Big Six at the same time in the 1960's - Hoshino with Meiji while the other two were teammates with Hosei - and all three were first round picks in the 1968 draft.  All three along with Ohno would eventually be named to the Hall Of Fame - Yamamoto in 2008, Ohno in 2013, Hoshino in 2017 and Tabuchi in 2020.

The first task for "Hoshino Japan" as the team became dubbed was actually qualifying for the 2008 games.  The Asian Baseball Championship held in Taiwan in November of 2007 would serve as the Asian qualifier for the Beijing Games.  There was a twist though - in previous years the top two teams at the end of the tournament would qualify for the Olympics but since China had automatically qualified because they were the host, only the top team from the 2007 tournament would qualify.  The second and third place teams would get a second chance to qualify in the Final Qualifier to be held in March of 2008.  Japan again put together a formidable team of stars including Yu Darvish, Koji Uehara, Shinnosuke Abe, Norichika Aoki, Atsunori Inaba, Masahiko Morino and Takehiro Arai.  The tournament format consisted of an initial round robin tournament between Hong Kong, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines.  The Filipino team won this round and moved on to the final round with Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  As was the case in 2003, Japan won the tournament with an undefeated 3-0 record, beating Taiwan and the Philippines handily 10-2 and 10-0 respectively and squeaking out a 4-3 victory against Korea.  Japan's qualification guaranteed that they would play in all of the Olympic baseball tournaments held since 1984 - the only country to do so.

Hoshino taking part in the Olympic Torch Relay in April of 2008 in Nagano
Once again there would be eight countries competing for Olympic Gold in baseball.  In addition to Japan and the host China were Cuba, the United States (back after not qualifying for the 2004 Athens games), the Netherlands, Canada, Taiwan and Korea (the last three having qualified via the Final Qualifier in March).

The games would be played at Wukesong Baseball Field in Beijing, a facility built for the Olympics.  It featured two separate baseball fields plus a practice field.  It was torn down after the games.  There's apparently a shopping mall on the location now.

As far as I can tell, NPB did not suspend their season for the duration of the Olympics but they did not limit the Olympic roster to two players from each team.  As a result there were four players from the Dragons selected; three each from the Marines, Hawks, Tigers and Lions; two each from the Fighters, Swallows and Giants; and one each from the Eagles and Baystars.  There were no players selected for the Olympics from the Buffaloes or Carp.  Here's the roster:

Number Position Player Birthdate Team
10 Catcher Abe, Shinnosuke 3/20/1979 Yomiuri Giants
23 Outfielder Aoki, Norichika 1/5/1982 Tokyo Yakult Swallows
25 Infielder Arai, Takahiro 1/30/1977 Hanshin Tigers
2 Infielder Araki, Masahiro 9/13/1877 Chunichi Dragons
18 Pitcher Darvish, Yu 8/16/1986 Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
28 Pitcher Fujikawa, Kyuji 7/21/1980 Hanshin Tigers
41 Outfielder Inaba, Atsunori 8/3/1972 Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
13 Pitcher Iwase, Hitoki 11/10/1974 Chunichi Dragons
11 Pitcher Kawakami, Kenshin 6/22/1975 Chunichi Dragons
52 Infielder Kawasaki, Munehiro 6/3/1981 Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
6 Infielder Miyamoto, Shinya 11/5/1970 Tokyo Yakult Swallows
31 Outfielder Morino, Masahiko 7/28/1978 Chunichi Dragons
55 Infielder Murata, Shuichi 12/28/1980 Yokohama Baystars
3 Infielder Nakajima, Hiroyuki 7/31/1982 Saitama Seibu Lions
17 Pitcher Naruse, Yoshihisa 10/13/1985 Chiba Lotte Marines
7 Infielder Nishioka, Tsuyoshi 7/27/1984 Chiba Lotte Marines
46 Outfielder Satoh, G.G 8/9/1978 Saitama Seibu Lions
22 Catcher Satozaki, Tomoya 5/20/1976 Chiba Lotte Marines
47 Pitcher Sugiuchi, Toshiya 10/30/1980 Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
15 Pitcher Tanaka, Masahiro 11/1/1988 Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
19 Pitcher Uehara, Koji 4/3/1975 Yomiuri Giants
21 Pitcher Wada, Tsuyoshi 2/21/1981 Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
16 Pitcher Wakui, Hideaki 6/21/1986 Saitama Seibu Lions
39 Catcher Yano, Akihiro 12/6/1968 Hanshin Tigers

Six members of the team had previously played in the Olympics.  Abe and Sugiuchi had played in the 2000 Sydney Games as amateurs while Iwase, Miyamoto, Uehara and Wada played in the 2004 Athens Games.  In addition there were 10 players who had been members of the 2006 Japanese team which had won the inaugural World Baseball Classic - Aoki, Arai, Fujikawa, Kawasaki, Miyamoto, Nishioka, Satozaki, Sugiuchi, Uehara and Wada.

The format of the tournament was the same as it had been for each Olympics since baseball had become an official sport in 1992.  The Preliminary Round of the tournament would feature a round robin format where each team would play a game against each of the other seven teams.  The top four teams would move on to the Medal Round with the first place team playing the fourth place team and the second place team playing the third place team in the semi-finals.  The two winners would then face off in the gold medal game while the two losers would meet in the bronze medal game.

Japan opened the Preliminary Round against the defending Gold Medal winners Cuba.  Yu Darvish took the mound for Japan and the two teams exchanged a couple runs early in the game.  It was 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Cuba got a couple runners on and Hoshino lifted Darvish in favor of Yoshihisa Naruse.  Naruse gave up a two run single to Alfredo Despaigne (who would later play for the Marines and Hawks) to put Cuba up 4-2.  Neither team was able to score again for the rest of the game and Darvish took the loss.

Darvish gives up a hit to Cuba (image swiped from this publication)
Japan's second game was against Taiwan.  With Hideaki Wakui on the mound they fell behind 1-0 after four innings but tied the game on a solo home from Shinnosuke Abe in the fifth.  An Atsunori Inaba RBI single in the sixth put them ahead 2-1 and they added another four runs in the top of the ninth to secure a 6-1 victory.

The Netherlands came into their game with Japan having not scored yet in the Olympics.  They'd been shutout 5-0 in their first game against Taiwan and 7-0 by the US in their second game (that ended after eight innings due to rain).  They didn't fare any better against Japan and starter Toshiya Sugiuchi.  Sugiuchi and relievers Masahiro Tanaka and Kenshin Kawakami held the Dutch to just four hits.  Meanwhile Japan exploded for four runs in the bottom of the first on a bases loaded triple from Takahiro Arai and a sacrifice fly from Inaba.  A GG Satoh solo home run plus an RBI hit from Norichika Aoki added two runs in the eighth to make it a 6-0 Japanese victory.  The Netherlands would finally score on a Sharnol Adriana solo home run in the fourth inning of their next game against China, breaking their scoreless inning streak at 29.

Japan's next match was against Korea.  This game was scoreless until the bottom on the sixth when Arai hit a two run home run.  Korea promptly tied the game in the top of the sixth when future Marine and Hawk Dae-ho Lee hit a two run home run of his own off starter Tsuyoshi Wada.  The game remained tied at two until the top of the ninth when Korea knocked Hitoki Iwase around for three runs.  Japan scored a run in the bottom of the ninth on a leadoff triple by Arai followed by Inaba getting on base on an error.  After Shuichi Murata doubled, the Japanese had the tying run on second with no one out.  But Korea's bullpen stifled the threat, getting Abe on a shallow fly to left, Satoh on a strikeout and Masahiko Morino on a ground out to end the game with a final score of 5-3.  Here are highlights from the game - the IOC will not allow me to embed the video.

Yoshihisa Naruse had a dominant pitching performance against Canada in Japan's next game.  He threw seven shutout innings, striking out 10 and only giving up two hits.  The bullpen was equally impressive as both Kyuji Fujikawa and Koji Uehara threw perfect eighth and ninth innings respectively with Fujikawa getting two strikeouts.  It was fortunate that Japan's pitching did so well since Canada's pitching was able to hold their offense to only five hits.  One of those hits was a solo home run from Inaba that accounted for the only run of the 1-0 victory for Japan.

Miyamoto, Nakajima, Uehara and Arai celebrate after beating Canada (image swiped from here)
Wakui had a similarly dominant performance in Japan's next game against China.  He also only gave up two hits in seven innings while walking none.  Both base runners were erased on double plays so he only faced the minimum number of batters in those seven innings.  Meanwhile Japan took a 3-0 lead in the second on back-to-back RBI doubles by Satoh and Akihiro Yano followed by an RBI single by Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  They extended their lead to 4-0 on an Inaba RBI double then exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth (including a two run homer by Nishioka) to make the score 10-0.  The game ended early due to the slaughter rule, giving Wakui a complete game victory.

The final game for Japan was also the final game for the Preliminary Round.  Japan and the United States came into the game tied for third place overall with identical 4-2 records.  Both teams had clinched a spot in the Medal Round.  The winner of the game would meet the second place Cuban team (6-1) in the semi-finals while the loser would have to take on the undefeated Korean team.  Both teams rotated through their pitchers some, trying to preserve arms for the medal round.  Darvish, Tanaka, Kawakami and Iwase held the US to only two hits through 10 scoreless innings while US pitchers Jeremy Cummings, Brian Duensing, Blaine Neal and Jeff Stevens held Japan to three hits and no runs over the same stretch.  The Olympics had adopted a rule that said that any inning after the tenth would start with two runners on and the offensive team's choice of a hitter at bat so Iwase started the eleventh with Jason Donald and Dexter Fowler on base and Brian Barden at the plate.  Barden, Nate Schierholtz and Matthew Brown hit three consecutive singles to put the US up 3-0 and John Gall later had an RBI groundout to make it 4-0.  But Japan came back with two outs in the bottom of the eleventh on back-to-back RBI singles from Inaba and Hiroyuki Nakajima to score the two runners who started the inning on base to make it 4-2.  A walk to Munenori Kawasaki put the winning run on base before a Tomoya Satozaki popout ended the game.  Japan ended the Preliminary Round in fourth place with a 4-3 record.

Two days later, Japan faced off against Korea in a semi-final matchup.  Japan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI ground out by Arai and extended their lead to 2-0 in third on a run scoring single by Nishioka.  Korea got their first run in the bottom of the fourth on a run scoring double play grounder by Seung-yeop Lee and tied the game in the seventh on a Jin-young Lee RBI hit.  Hoshino brought Iwase in to pitch in the bottom of the eighth with the score still tied 2-2 and for the third time in the tournament he had a disastrous outing.  With one out, Seung-yeop Lee (who was at the time a Yomiuri Giant) laced a two run home run to put Korea up 4-2.  After giving up a hit to the next batter Dong-joo Kim, Hoshino replaced Iwase with Wakui who retired the next batter for the second out.  Young-min Ko then hit a fly ball to left field that should have been the third out but instead bounced off of Satoh's glove, allowing Kim to score from first with the third run of the inning.  A Min-ho Kang double brought Ko in to make it 6-2 Korea before Wakui finally got the third out.  Japan went one-two-three in the top of the ninth to bring the game to a close (and the highlights of the game can be seen here).  Cuba's 10-2 defeat of the US in the other semi-final game set the stage for the final two games - Japan would take on Team USA in the Bronze Medal game while Korea would play Cuba for the Gold.

Japan took an early lead against the US when Masahiro Araki hit a solo home run in the first off of Brett Anderson but the US tied it in the bottom of the second when Matt LaPorta hit a solo shot off of Wada.  Japan took the lead back in the top of the third on a three run homer by Aoki.  For the second straight day, Satoh would make a costly error in the outfield when he dropped a fly ball by Barden to start the bottom of the third.  After a Jayson Nix walk and a Terry Tiffee strikeout, Matthew Brown homered to left-center to tied the game up at four apiece.  The US took the lead for good in the fifth on an RBI double by Taylor Teagarden and a two run home run by Jason Donald, making the score 8-4.  Neither team was able to score any more runs and Team USA ended up taking the Bronze Medal while Japan went medal-less for the second time since professional players were permitted to play in the Olympics.  Meanwhile Korea stunned the Cubans 3-2 to go undefeated in the Olympics and (more importantly) take home the Gold Medal.

Hoshino and the team congratulate Team USA after the game (image swiped from here)
The sports media generally blamed Hoshino for the team's failure to medal.  Among the criticisms was that it had been five years since he had previously managed.  From 12 years later, it looks like the offense and especially the power disappeared.  Japan had only seven home runs in the tournament, compared with fourteen in the 2004 games.  Four of those seven were solo shots and there was only one game (the Bronze Medal game against the US) where they hit more than one home run in a game.  No batter had more one home run.  The team hit .234 for the tournament* - I don't know how that compared to the other teams in this tournament or previous Olympic teams but it doesn't look good.  For all the criticism of Iwase, Japan's pitching was quite good.  They held their opponents to only 14 runs in the Preliminary Round, by far the least amount of runs given up by any team (sixth place Canada was second with 20) but they only scored 30 runs in the round, fourth best and only one run better than both Taiwan and Canada - and a third of those runs were scored in a single game against China.

*I computed the team's batting average by adding up the stats on the back of the baseball cards in BBM's Japan National Team set mentioned below.

Nine members of the team went on to play in MLB - Aoki, Darvish, Fujikawa, Kawakami, Kawasaki, Nishioka, Tanaka, Uehara and Wada - while another - Nakajima - spent two years in Oakland's organization.  Two of those nine are still active in the US - Darvish and Tanaka - while another six players from the team are still active in Japan - Aoki, Fujikawa, Nakajima, Naruse, Wada and Wakui.

BBM issued a box set for the Olympic team in late September of 2008.  The set contained 28 cards - one card for each player plus cards for Hoshino and his three coaches.  The 2008 team was the only Japanese Olympic team to have baseball cards of all the members.  This is to date the only baseball cards BBM has done for an Olympic team.  For my last Olympic post I'm going to change things up a bit and show each player's BBM rookie card as well as their Olympic team card (with the exception of Shinya Miyamoto since I don't have his rookie card yet - I'll use his 1995 BBM Nippon Series card instead since it's from his rookie season):

2001 BBM #282

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN15
For as good of a player that Shinnosuke Abe was, he hit pretty poorly in the two Olympics he played in.  He went 2-18 in the 2000 games and only 3-24 in this tournament for a cumulative average of .119.  He went from being a star at Chuo University to being a first round draft pick of the Giants in 2000 to being a star for 19 years with Yomiuri.  He was a 13 time All Star, a nine time Best 9 award winner, a four time Golden Glove winner, a one time Central League batting champion, a one time Central League MVP and a member of the Meikyukai.  He also played for the National Team in the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.  He retired at the end of last season and has been the coach of the Giants farm team this year.

2004 BBM 1st Version #308

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN25
Norichika Aoki had seven RBIs in the Olympics, tied with Takahiro Arai for the team lead.  Aoki had been a member of a star-studded lineup at Waseda University with Hiroyasu Tanaka, Takashi Toritani, Toshimitsu Higa, Shinichi Takeuchi and Shintaro Yoshida.  These position players along with Aoki's future Olympic teammate Tsuyoshi Wada helped lead Waseda to four consecutive Tokyo Big Six championships.  Aoki won three Best 9 awards before being taken in the fourth round of the 2003 draft by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.  His success continued in NPB, as he won the Rookie Of The Year award in 2005, a season in which he became only the second batter in NPB history to get 200 hits in a season (after Ichiro in 1994).  Aoki became the first to reach 200 hits in a season more than once when he did it again in 2010.  He won two batting crowns, made seven All Star teams, won seven Best 9 and six Golden Glove awards and led the Central League in stolen bases once before heading to the majors after 2011.  He spent six years in the majors, bouncing around between the Brewers, Royals, Giants, Mariners, Astros, Blue Jays and Mets before returning to the Swallows in 2018.  He joined the Meikyukai when he got his 2000th hit between NPB and MLB in 2017 and made the All Star team one more time in 2018.  His career .326 average (as of 7/26/20) is the highest in NPB history for a batter with 4000 at bats (Ichiro's NPB average is .353 but he only had 3619 at bats).  In addition to the Olympics, Aoki has played in three of the four World Baseball Classics, suiting up in 2006, 2009 and 2017.

1999 BBM #374

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN22
Takahiro Arai was in his first season with the Hanshin Tigers in 2008 after becoming a free agent after nine seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  The Carp had drafted him in the sixth round of the 1998 draft out of Komazawa University.  Arai had hit 96 home runs in his last three seasons in Hiroshima but back issues limited him to only 8 in 2008, so his single home run and .257 average in Beijing were somewhat understandable (although it makes you wonder why he was on the roster in the first place and why he had the most at bats of any player).  He returned to the Carp in 2015 and retired at the end of the 2018 season.  He was a four time All Star, a two time Best 9 and one time Golden Glove award winner and led the Central League in home runs and RBIs once.  He's yet another member of the Meikyukai.  He also played for Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  He's been a TV baseball commentator since retiring.  His brother Ryota had a 12 year NPB career with the Dragons and Tigers between 2006 and 2017 - the two of them were teammates with Hanshin from 2011 to 2014.

1996 BBM #484

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN18
Masahiro Araki was in the second year of a batting slump in 2008, having had his average drop from .300 in 2006 to .263 in 2007 to .243 in 2008.  This made him a somewhat curious choice for the Olympic team although he did reasonably well in limited action, hitting .263 with a couple stolen bases in only 19 at bats.  He'd been a first round pick of the Dragons out of Kumamoto Kogyo High School in 1995 and spent his entire 22 year career in Nagoya.  He was a five time All Star, a three time Best 9 award winner, a six time Golden Glove award winner and he led the Central League in steals once.  He's another Meikyukai member, having gotten his 2000th hit in 2017.  He retired at the end of that season and has been a coach with the Dragons since then.

2005 BBM 1st Version #116

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN10
Yu Darvish was in the midst of six outstanding seasons as a starter for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters when he was picked for the Olympic team.  The Fighters had taken him in the first round of 2004 draft out of Tohoku High School and he'd gone 12-5 with a 2.89 ERA in his first full season in the rotation in 2006, helping lead the Fighters to their first Nippon Series title in 44 years.  He followed that up with an MVP and Sawamura winning season in 2007 when he went 15-5 with a 1.82 ERA and was on his way to a 16-4, 1.88 ERA season in 2008 when he took a break for the Olympics.  He was considered the ace of the staff but he didn't pitch very well in his start in the team's opening game in Beijing, however, giving up four runs in four innings to Cuba.  Hoshino apparently lost confidence in him as he only made two more appearances in the Olympics, starting the final game of the Preliminary Round against the US and throwing two perfect innings and throwing an inning in relief in the Bronze Medal game.  Darvish actually threw the first and last pitches by a Japanese pitcher in the Olympics.  He went 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 7 innings in the tournament.  He continued posting sub-2.00 ERAs in his next three seasons before the Fighters posted him following the 2011 season.  He signed with the Rangers and spent the next five and half seasons with them before being traded to the Dodgers in 2017.  He's been with the Cubs since 2018.  He's a nine time All Star (five in NPB, four in MLB) and has won two Best 9 awards, two Golden Glove awards, two Pacific League MVP awards, a Sawamura award and a "Pitcher Of The Year" award.  He led his league in strikeouts three times in Japan and once in North America.  He also pitched for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

1999 #392

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN13
Kyuji Fujikawa was in his second full season as Hanshin Tigers closer when he was selected to the Olympic team.  A first round pick of the Tigers out of high school in the 1998 draft, Fujikawa had bounced between the farm team and the ichi-gun squad for a couple seasons before finally establishing himself in a middle relief role in 2004.  He and fellow setup man Jeff Williams teamed up with closer Tomoyuki Kubota to form the "JFK" bullpen for a couple seasons.  Fujikawa moved into the closer's role in 2006 when Kubota got injured and pitched well enough to keep the role after Kubota got healthy.  He led the Central League in saves in 2007 with 46 and had another 38 in 2008 despite missing time for the Olympics.  He pitched well in Beijing, giving up just one run in four innings over four games although that one run allowed Korea to tie the semi-final game.  He continued as Tigers' closer through the 2012 season, leading the Central League in saves again with 41 in 2011.  He left the Tigers as a free agent and signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs.  He spent two injury plagued seasons with the Cubs before moving to the Texas Rangers for the 2015 season but he was released by Texas in mid-May.  He returned to Japan and joined his hometown team, the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League, for the remainder of the year.  He rejoined the Tigers in 2016 and has worked out of the bullpen for them ever since.  He's a nine time All Star and also played for Japan in the 2006 and 2009 WBCs.

1995 BBM #554

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN27
Atsunori Inaba had been noticed by then-Yakult Swallows manager Katsuya Nomura when he was playing outfield for Hosei University against Nomura's son's Meiji team in the early 90's.  The Swallows ended up picking him in the third round of the 1994 draft.  He put together some good seasons with Yakult but he was somewhat inconsistent - I think he had problems staying healthy for a couple seasons.  It really wasn't until he left the Swallows for the Fighters as a free agent after 2004 that he put up consistently good numbers for five or six years in a row.  In 2008 he hit .301 with 20 home runs but he only .206 with 1 home run and six RBIs at Beijing.  He was the Pacific League batting champion in 2007, a five time Best 9 award winner, a five time Golden Glove award winner and an eight time All Star.  He got his 2000th hit in 2012, making him yet another member of the Meikyukai.  He also played in the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.  He retired after the 2014 season.  He was named as the new manager of Samurai Japan in the summer of 2017 with the intent that he would lead the team for the 2019 Premier 12, the 2020 Olympics and the 2021 World Baseball Classic.  The last two of those tournaments have obviously been postponed but his contract has at least been extended through next year's rescheduled Olympics. 

1999 BBM #311

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN06
To say Hitoki Iwase had a poor Olympic experience would be an understatement.  He pitched well in his first game, throwing a scoreless inning against Taiwan but his other three appearances were disasters.  He gave up three runs in the ninth inning against Korea in the Preliminary Round to take the loss and then gave up four runs in the eleventh inning of the final Preliminary Round game against the US to take a second loss.  Finally he entered the semi-final game against Korea in the eighth inning and gave up a tie-breaking two run home run to Seung-yeop Lee and ended up taking a third loss in the tournament.  I'm not entirely sure of the breakdown of earned vs unearned runs per game but according to the back of his baseball card, he gave up six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings for an 11.57 ERA.  His poor performance was a bit of a surprise as he was in his peak years as a closer for the Dragons.  He was in the middle of a streak of nine straight seasons with at least 30 saves.  He'd been the second round pick of Chunichi in the 1998 draft out of NTT Tokai of the corporate leagues and spent the first years with the team working in middle relief before manager Hiromitsu Ochiai made him his closer in 2004.  He led the Central League in saves five times and his 407 saves is the NPB career record.  He also holds the career NPB record for most appearances by a pitcher.  He was a 10 time All Star and is a member of the Meikyukai because he has more than 250 saves.  He retired after the 2018 season and has been a baseball commentator ever since.  This and the 2004 Athens Games were the only times he played for the National Team.
 
1998 BBM #385

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN05
Kenshin Kawakami made four scoreless appearances in the Olympics before getting tagged for four runs and the loss in the Bronze Medal game against the US.  Kawakami had been a star pitcher at Meiji University, Senichi Hoshino's alma mater, when he was the number one pick by Hoshino's Dragons in the 1997 draft.  He went 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA in his rookie season of 1998 and won the Central League Rookie Of The Year award.  He spent much of the next ten years in the Dragons' rotation, putting together an MVP season in 2004 when he went 17-7 and also won the Sawamura award.  He threw a no-hitter against the Yomiuri Giants in 2002.  He left the Dragons as a free agent after 2008 and spent three injury plagued seasons with the Atlanta Braves before returning to Chunchi in 2012.  His injury issues continued with the Dragons and they finally released him after the 2015 season.  He had hoped to get healthy enough to play for another team but he didn't get any offers and he officially announced his retirement in May of 2017.  He was a six time All Star, a two time Best award winner and a three time Golden Glove winner.  He's been a TV baseball commentator since retiring.  This was the only time he played for the Japanese National Team.
 
2000 BBM #281

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN23
Munenori Kawasaki's .571 batting average was the highest on the team but because of injury he only had seven at bats in the Olympics.  Kawasaki was a fourth round pick of the Hawks out of Kagoshima Kogyo High School in 1999.  He didn't become a regular with the Hawks until an injury to Yusuke Torigoe in early 2003 opened up shortstop for him.  He moved to third base when Torigoe returned but moved back to short the following years and was a regular when healthy for the next few years.  He left as a free agent after the 2011 season and joined the Seattle Mariners.  He spent five seasons in North America in the Mariners (2012), Blue Jays (2013-15) and Cubs (2016) organizations.  He didn't play particularly well but his antics made him popular with his teammates and the fans.  The Cubs released him in early 2017 and he returned to the Hawks that season.  Kawasaki revealed that he had been suffering from a nerve disorder and announced he was stepping away from baseball when the Hawks released him just before Opening Day in 2018.  He has not officially retired and was a player/coach for the Wei Chuan Dragons of the CPBL last season.  He's hoping to continue to play but he was not under contract with the Dragons this season as either player or coach.  He's an eight time All Star, a two time Best 9 award winner, a two time Golden Glove award winner and he led the Pacific League in stolen bases in 2004.  He also played on both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic teams.

1995 BBM Nippon Series #S17

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN20
As he had been at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Shinya Miyamoto was the captain of the Japanese baseball team.  He had hit .500 in the 2004 games but he didn't play much in the 2008 tournament, getting just one hit in four at bats spread over three games.  Miyamoto had been a second round pick of the Swallows in the 1994 draft (one round before Inaba) out of the Prince Hotels team of the corporate leagues.  He made the All Star team eight times during his 19 year Swallows career and won one Best 9 and ten Golden Glove awards.  He's also a member of the Meikyukai, having gotten his 2000th hit in 2012.  He retired after 2013 and spent a couple years as a coach for the Swallows but he's mostly been a TV commentator since retiring.  In addition to his Olympics appearances he also played for Team Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
 
1997 BBM #492

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN26
Masahiko Morino was another player who was drafted by Hoshino when he managed the Dragons.  He was Chunichi's second pick in the 1996 draft out of Tokaidai Sagami High School.  He did not really become a regular for the Dragons in 2005, his ninth season with the team.  He'd had one of the best years of his career in 2007, hitting .294 with 18 home runs and 97 RBIs and making the All Star team for the first time.  He missed two months of the 2008 season with a calf injury which makes it curious he was selected for the Olympic team.  He was mostly a back up in the tournament - getting into eight of the nine games but only getting 18 at bats.  He only had two hits in those 18 at bats for an average of .111.  He had his best two seasons after 2008, hitting .289 with 23 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2009 and .327 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs in 2010.  He retired after the 2017 season, having spent 21 years playing for the Dragons.  He was a two time All Star and won one Best 9 and one Golden Glove award.  He coached for Chunichi for a couple years after retiring.
 
2003 BBM 1st Version #177

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN24
While there were a number of disappointing performances among the batters on the team in Beijing, Shuichi Murata's may have been the most disappointing. In 2008 Murata, who had been acquired by the Baystars in the "free agent acquisition" portion of the 2002 draft after his collegiate career at Nihon University, was having the best year of his career.  He ended the season with a .323 average, 114 RBIs and a Central League leading 46 home runs.  It was his second consecutive home run title - he'd hit 36 in 2007 - and his third consecutive year with over 100 RBIs.  But he only hit .087 in the tournament, going 2 for 23 with no home runs or RBIs.  He left the Baystars as a free agent after 2011 and joined the Yomiuri Giants.  The Giants released him at the end of 2017 and he spent 2018 with the Tochigi Golden Braves of the BC League before retiring.  He's been coaching for Yomiuri the last two years.  He was a five time All Star, a four time Best 9 award winner and a three time Golden Glove winner.  He also played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

2001 BBM #426

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN19
Hiroyuki Nakajima was a fifth round pick of the Lions in the 2000 draft out of Itami Kita High School.  He got his big break when he replaced Kazuo Matsui in the line up when Matsui left for the Mets in 2004 and hit .287 with 27 home runs and 90 RBIs.  I think Hoshino had intended to use him as a backup infielder for the Olympics but he ended up being the regular shortstop after Munenori Kawasaki got injured.  He hit .296 in the tournament, good enough for second on the team among batters with more than 20 at bats.  The Lions posted him after the 2011 season and the Yankees won the bidding for him, but Nakajima was unable to come to an agreement with them and he returned to the Lions for the 2012 season.  A year later he left the Lions as a free agent and signed a two year contract with the Oakland Athletics.  He spent most of those two years on either the disabled list or with the A's Triple-A team in Sacramento.  He returned to Japan when his contract was up, having never made a Major League appearance.  He joined the Orix Buffaloes in 2015 and spent four seasons with them before returning to Kanto to join the Yomiuri Giants for the 2019 season where he is still playing.  He made eight All Star teams and has won four Best 9 and three Golden Glove awards.  He also played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
 
2004 BBM 1st Version #123

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN09
Yoshihisa Naruse pitched extremely well in the Olympics.  He made four appearances, striking out 19 and not giving up any runs in 12 innings of work.  He won his only start of the tournament against Canada, throwing seven shutout innings and striking out ten.  But his only other appearance in the Preliminary Round had been in the game against Cuba.  You wonder what might have been if Hoshino had used him more.  Naruse had been a sixth round pick of the Marines in the 2003 draft out of Yokohama High School.  He spent his first couple seasons on Lotte's farm team but had a breakout season in 2007, going 16-1 with a Pacific League leading 1.82 ERA.  He won "Pitcher Of The Year" that season and narrowly lost out on the Sawamura Award to Darvish.  Naruse was a mainstay in the Marines rotation until he left for the Swallows as a free agent after the 2014 season.  He made the All Star team three times during his time with Lotte.  He spent four years with Yakult but injuries and ineffectiveness limited his time with the ichi-gun squad and he was released after spending the entire 2018 season with the farm team.  He was picked up by the Orix Buffaloes for 2019 but didn't pitch much.  He got released again after the season and signed on with the Tochigi Golden Braves of the BC League as a player/coach for the 2020 season.
 
2003 BBM 1st Version #304

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN21
Tsuyoshi Nishioka somehow avoided the offensive malaise that affected most of the position players on the Olympic team.  His .455 average (10 for 22) was the highest on the team for any player with more than 20 at bats.  He was drafted out of baseball powerhouse Osaka Toin high school in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Chiba Lotte Marines.  His first season as a regular was 2005 and he had very good season, becoming the youngest player in Pacific League history to lead the league in stolen bases.  Lotte manager Bobby Valentine split Nishioka's playing time between second base and shortstop and Nishioka had the curious distinction of winning the Best 9 award for shortstop but the Golden Glove award for second base (Valentine moved around his infielders enough that two other Marines players won the other two awards - Makoto Kosaka won the Golden Glove for shortstop and Koichi Hori won the Best 9 for second base).  He settled at shortstop in 2006 and was the Marines' starter at that position for the next five years.  He had his best season in 2010 when he won the Pacific League batting crown with a .346 average and became the first switch hitter to get over 200 hits in a season NPB.   The Marines posted him after that season and he ended up getting a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins.  One week into the 2011 season Nishioka broke his left leg when the Yankees' Nick Swisher slid into him to break up a double play, costing him two months of the season.  He asked the Twins for his release after he spent almost the entire 2012 season at Triple-A Rochester and returned to Japan, signing with the Hanshin Tigers.  He had a solid first season with Hanshin, hitting .290 and winning a Best 9 award at second base, but injuries limited his playing time in subsequent seasons.  The Tigers released him after the 2018 season and he spent 2019 with...you guessed it...the Tochigi Golden Braves of the BC League.  He hasn't officially retired yet but he's not listed with Tochigi for this season.  He ultimately won four Best 9 and three Golden Glove awards and made the All Star team six times.  He had also played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

2004 BBM 1st Version #61

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN28
Takahiro "G.G." Satoh participated in the Olympics during the three peak years of his career.  I believe he's the only Japanese baseball Olympian ever to begin their professional career in North America rather than Japan as Satoh signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and spent three seasons in the organization's lower minor league teams.  He returned to Japan after the 2003 season and was taken by the Lions with their seventh round pick in that fall's draft.  His best three seasons were 2007-09 when he hit .280 with 25 home runs, .302 with 21 home runs and .291 with 25 home runs respectively.  He made his only All Star team in 2008.  He ultimately spent eight seasons with Seibu before being released after the 2011 season.  He spent 2012 playing in Italy with Fortitudo Bologna and then returned to NPB to spend two seasons with the Marines from 2013-14.  He had a home run against the Netherlands in the Olympics but unfortunately it's the three costly errors he made (two in the semi-final game against Korea and one in the Bronze Medal game against the US) that everyone remembers about his performance in the tournament.  He went to work in his father's company after he retired as a player.

1999 BBM #513

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN16
Tomoya Satozaki got into four games in the Olympics and was the starting catcher in three of them.  His .071 batting average was the lowest of any of the position players on the team although he only had 14 at bats total (Murata had the lowest average of any player with at least 20 at bats).  Satozaki was the Marines second round pick out of Teikyo University in the 1998 draft.  It took him a few years to establish himself with the top team, hitting .319 in 78 games as a 27 year old in 2003.  He was pretty much the primary catcher for the Marines from then on until 2012 although he missed time with injuries in a couple seasons (including 2008 which again makes one ask why he was on the Olympic team if he was recovering from injuries).  Further injuries limited his playing time in his last two seasons and he retired after 2014.  He was a seven time All Star and won two Best 9 and two Golden Glove awards.  He also played for Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  He's been a TV baseball commentator since his retirement.

2002 BBM 1st Version #235

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN14
Toshiya Sugiuchi started Japan's third game of the Preliminary Round against the Netherlands and got the win with seven scoreless innings of work.  Curiously, he didn't pitch again for a week when he started the semi-final game against Korea.  He threw three hitless innings in that game but gave up a couple hits and a run in the fourth and was replaced by Kawakami.  His final numbers for the tournament were 1-0 with an 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings of work.  Sugiuchi had been the Hawks third round pick from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki industrial league team in the 2001 draft.  He burst onto the scene in 2005 with the best season of his career going 18-4 with a 2.11 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 196.2 innings.  He won both the Pacific League MVP and the Sawamura Award that season.  He was a mainstay of the Hawks rotation until he left as a free agent after the 2011 season and joined the Giants.  He threw a no-hitter in 2012 against the Eagles and spent three years in the Giants rotation before suffering a hip injury in early 2015.  He spent the next three seasons trying to come back but ultimately retired after the 2018 season.  He'd been a seven time All Star and won one Best 9 award.  He's been a coach for the Giants ever since retiring.  He played for the Japan National Team in five major tournaments - the 2000 and 2008 Olympics and the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.  

2007 BBM 1st Version #211

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN07
At 19 years of age Masahiro Tanaka was the youngest player on the 2008 Olympic baseball team.  His appearance on the team basically emulated Daisuke Matsuzaka's in 2000 as he went from a memorable performance in the Summer Koshien tournament to pitching in the Olympics two years later.  He only made three appearances in the tournament but pitched very well, striking out nine in seven innings of work and giving up no runs.  He was the starting pitcher for Komadai Tomakomai High School in the final game of the 2006 Summer Koshien Tournament against Waseda.  Both he and Waseda starter Yuki Saitoh pitched complete games in the game that ended in a 1-1 tie after 15 inning - the first time the Koshien final had ended in a tie in 37 years.  Tanaka pitched in the rematch held the next day but his team fell to Waseda when Saitoh again pitched a complete game to win 4-3.  The two players' careers have diverged since then with Saitoh going on to play at Waseda University and have a mediocre (at best) professional career with the Fighters and Tanaka immediately going professional with being drafted by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the first round of the high school portion of the 2006 draft.  He moved into the Eagles starting rotation in 2007 and pitched well enough to win the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year award.  He put together a great season in 2011, going 19-5 with a 1.27 ERA and 241 strikeouts and then topped that season two years later when he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts.  As you might expect, he won the Sawamura awards in both of those seasons along with the PL MVP award in 2013.   He won his last 28 decisions in the regular season in Japan including his last four in 2012.  He helped lead the Eagles to their only Nippon Series Championship, coming in in relief in the ninth inning of Game Seven to secure the save in the Eagles 3-0 victory.  That was his last appearance in Japan as the Eagles posted him after the season and he signed a contract with the New York Yankees.  He was an All Star in six of his seven seasons in Japan and won two Best 9 awards and three Golden Glove awards.  He's now in his seventh season with the Yankees.  He also appeared in the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.

1999 BBM #329

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN11
Koji Uehara had started two games in the 2004 Athens games, beating Italy in the Opening Game and going seven innings against Taiwan a few days later.  By 2008 he had moved into the bullpen but he only made two appearances in the Beijing games, throwing two scoreless innings against Taiwan and Canada - he got the only save for Japan in the game against Canada.  Uehara was Yomiuri's first pick in the 1998 draft out of Osaka Taiiku University and made an auspicious debut in 1999, going 20-4 with an ERA of 2.09 and 179 strikeouts.  He won the Central League Rookie Of The Year that season.  He was a member of the Giants starting rotation for the next seven seasons but after starting the 2007 season with an injury, the Yomiuri moved him to the bullpen and made him the closer.  He split 2008 between the rotation and the bullpen - he was a setup man for Marc Kroon when working out of the pen - and then left the Giants as a free agent to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.  He spent nine seasons in MLB, playing for the Orioles (2009-11), Rangers (2011-12), Red Sox (2013-16) and Cubs (2017).  He returned to Japan and the Giants for 2018 and retired in the middle of the 2019 season.  He's been a TV commentator since retiring.  He was a 10 time All Star (9 times in Japan and once in MLB), a two time Sawamura Award winner, a two time Best 9 award winner and two time Golden Glove award winner.  Beyond the two Olympic tournaments he also suited up for Team Japan for the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

2003 BBM 1st Version #273

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN12
Tsuyoshi Wada had won both his starts in the 2004 Athens Games, beating Canada in the Preliminary Round and the Bronze Medal game and only giving up two runs and striking out 13 in 12 innings of work.  He didn't pitch quite as well in 2008, giving up two runs (on a two run home run by Dae-ho Lee) in his only start in the Preliminary Round against Korea although he did strike out 10 in 6 2/3 innings.  A week later he started against the US in the Bronze Medal game and gave up 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings. His totals for the tournament was an ERA of 4.82 in 9 2/3 innings of work with 13 strikeouts.  Wada had been a collegiate star at Waseda University and signed on with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks as part of the "free acquisition" portion of the 2002 draft.  He went 14-5 with a 3.38 ERA and 189 strikeouts in his rookie season of 2003, winning the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year award.  He remained in the Hawks rotation through 2011 and had double digit victory totals in each year except 2008 and 2009 when he was fighting some elbow injuries.  He won the Pacific League MVP in 2010 while leading the PL in wins with 17.  He left Fukuoka as a free agent after 2011 and signed with the Orioles.  He spent four years in North America split between two injury plagued years with Baltimore (2012-13) and two seasons with the Cubs (2014-15).   He returned to the Hawks and Japan for 2016 and had a good season that year but he missed a lot of playing time over the next three seasons due to elbow and shoulder issues.  He's healthy back in the Hawks rotation this season, at least for now.  He's a five time All Star and won one Best 9 award.  Like Uehara, he appeared in the 2006 World Baseball Classic in addition to his Olympic appearances.

2005 BBM 1st Version #37

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN08
Hideaki Wakui won both his starts in the Preliminary Round.  He gave up only one run against Taiwan while striking out six in six innings.  Five days later he pitched even better against China, throwing seven shutout innings while striking out six.  He allowed two hits but both base runners were erased on double plays.  The game ended after seven innings due to Japan's 10 run lead so he ended up with a complete game victory in which he faced the minimum number of batters.  His only other appearance in the tournament was a scoreless two thirds of an inning against Korea in the semi-final game.  His final stats for the Olympics included an 0.66 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.  Wakui had been the Lions first pick in the 2004 draft out of Yokohama High School where he had been a teammate of Naruse's.  He became a starter for the Lions in 2005 and reeled off five straight seasons of double digits wins starting in 2006 including two seasons that he lead the Pacific League in wins (17 in 2007 and 16 in 2009).  He had a poor season in 2011 because of an elbow injury and the Lions made him their closer in 2012.  He saved 30 games that season but the Lions moved him back into the rotation for most of 2013.  He again was moved to the bullpen late in the season and notched another seven saves.  He moved across Kanto to Chiba as a free agent after that season and the Marines moved him back into the starting rotation again.  He led the PL in wins again in 2015 but his numbers declined in subsequent years.  He attempted to join an MLB team during the 2017-18 off-season but ended up returning to Lotte after he didn't attract much interest.  He was sold to the Eagles after last season and is pitching very well this season so far, having gone 5-0 in six starts as of the end of July.  He won the Sawamura Award in 2009 and picked up four Golden Glove awards.  He's also been an All Star six times.  He pitched in both the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.

1991 BBM #112

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN17
39 year old Akihiro Yano was the oldest player on the Olympic team roster.  He was basically the emergency catcher behind Abe and Satozaki, having only made three appearances during the Preliminary Round with only two at bats.  Bizarrely it looks like despite this he was the starting catcher in the semi-final game against Korea and went 0-3 while Satozaki sat on the bench and Abe was limited to a pinch hit appearance (he flew out to end the game).  Yano was the second round pick of the Dragons out of Tohoku Fukushi University in the 1990 draft.   He was pretty much a backup to Takeshi Nakamura while with the Dragons but got his big break when he and  Following the 1997 season he and Yasuaki Taiho were traded to Hanshin for Koichi Sekikawa and Teruyoshi Kuji.  He became the starting catcher for the Tigers in 1998 and he kept that role for 11 seasons although he missed much of the 2002 season after getting injured.  Elbow and ankle injuries derailed his 2009 and 2010 seasons and he decided to retire at the end of 2010.  He was a seven time All Star, a three time Best 9 award winner and a two time Golden Glove award winner.  He became a TV commentator after retiring before becoming a coach for the National Team in 2013.  He started coaching for the Tigers in 2016 and became the team's manager in 2019.

I wanted to add some comments about the team's coaching staff:

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN01

Senichi Hoshino had a 14 year career with the Chunichi Dragons after being their first round pick in the 1968 draft out of Meiji University.  He won the Sawamura Award in 1974 and was a six time All Star.  He managed for 17 seasons - two stints with the Dragons (1987-91 and 1996-01) plus a stint with Hanshin (2002-03) and Rakuten (2011-14).  He had to step down as Tigers manager due to hypertension but apparently he was considered healthy enough to helm the Olympic team and later Rakuten.  He won four pennants (1988 and 1999 with Chunichi, 2003 with Hanshin and 2013 with Rakuten) and won the Nippon Series in 2013.  He passed away in early 2018 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 70.
  
2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN04
Pitching coach Yutaka Ohno was signed by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp as an undrafted player in 1976 and had a 22 year career from 1977 to 1998 as both a starter and reliever.  He was a 10 time All Star and won the 1988 Sawamura Award.  
 
2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN02
Koichi Tabuchi was also a first round pick in the 1968 draft.  He was picked by the Hanshin Tigers after having played at Hosei University.  Tabuchi spent 10 seasons with the Tigers before being dealt in a blockbuster trade that sent him and Kenji Furusawa to the brand new Seibu Lions for Yoshiharu Wakana, Akinobu Mayumi and Masafumi Takeda (and 20 million yen).  He spent the last six years of his career with the Lions and retired after the 1984 season.  He was an 11 time All Star, won the Central League Rookie Of The Year award in 1969 and was a five time Best 9 award winner.  He finished his career with 474 home runs, eleventh best in NPB history (although I think he was sixth or seventh when he retired).  He managed the Hawks for three years from 1990 to 1992 and then coached for Hoshino at Hanshin (2002-03) and Rakuten (2011-12).
 
2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN03
Koji Yamamoto had been a teammate of Tabuchi's at Hosei and was another first round pick in the 1968 draft.  He spent 18 years with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and made the All Star team 14 times.  He won two Central League MVP Awards (1975 & 1980) and 10 Best 9 awards.  He finished his career with 536 home runs which was third all time at the time although he's since been passed by Hiromitsu Kadota.  He managed the Carp on two separate occasions (1989-93 and 2001-05).  He was a part of the first six Carp teams to play in the Nippon Series - five times as a player (1975, 1979-80, 1984 and 1987) and once as a manager (1991).  He also managed the Japan National Team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

This is the final post of my series on the Japanese Olympic baseball teams and I thought I'd summarize the team's results.  As I mentioned earlier, Japan is the only team to have played in all seven Olympic baseball tournaments since 1984.  The team took home five medals in those seven tournaments - one Gold (1984), two Silver (1988 & 1996) and two Bronze (1992 & 2004).  They are tied with Cuba for second place behind the most medals - the United States is first with six.  It seems odd to me that the team was less successful after professionals were allowed to play - only winning one medal in three tries - but it looks like organizational disorder played a part in the failure in 2000, just bad luck (and the Aussies!) cost them the Gold Medal in 2004 and a hitting slump and mismanagement by Hoshino hurt them in 2008.  

It will be interesting to see what will happen when the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games are able to be played.  There will only be six teams in the tournament and two of them have not yet been determined.  As the host of the Games, Japan has automatically qualified and Israel (winner of the 2019 European/African qualifier), Korea and Mexico (top teams from Asia and the Americas in last fall's Premier 12) are the others.  Hopefully a year from now we'll all be watching the games to see what happens.

I want to credit this article on Baseball Reference's Bullpen Wiki for the information in this post.  It's the only resource I was able to find with a lot of detail about the individual games in the 1988 tournament.