Friday, November 2, 2012

Kenji Johjima

Kenji Johjima of the Hanshin Tigers announced his retirement at the end of the season.  Injuries had limited Johjima to only playing in 62 ichi-gun games the past two years and he decided to hang it up at age 36 despite having one more year on his contract.

Johjima was the number one draft pick of the then Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in the 1995 draft (held in fall of 1994).  His first BBM card was #558 in the 1995 set.  His first Calbee card wasn't until the 1997 set (#140).  I don't have either of those, but I do have a (poor) scan of his 1996 Hawaiian Winter League Maui Stingrays team set card:

1996 HWL Maui Stingrays #8

He became the regular catcher for the Hawks in 1997 and immediately became a star.  He remained with the Hawks through their acquisition by Softbank in 2005.

1998 BBM #248

2000 Victory Hardball Heroes #H5

2005 BBM 2nd Version #598
Following the 2005 season, he headed to the US to play for the Seattle Mariners.  He played there for four seasons, opting out of the last two years of his contract to return to Japan.  He signed with Hanshin in time for the 2010 season, putting up numbers consistent with his time with the Hawks for the first season, before injuries took their toll for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

2010 BBM Rookie Edition #112

2012 Calbee #129
Johjima made the All Star team 10 times - 1997-2005 and 2010, pretty much every year that he was a regular in Japan.  In addition, he received the most votes in the fan balloting twice - in 2004 and 2005.

1997 BBM All Stars ##A5

2004 BBM All Stars #A63
Johjima played in three Nippon Series - 1999, 2000 and 2003 - all with the Hawks.  Amazingly, he won an award in each Series he appeared in - Outstanding Player awards in 1999 and 2003 and the Fighting Spirit Award in his losing effort to the Giants in 2000.  He hit .348 with four home runs in the 2000 Series and hit another four home runs in the 2003 Series against the Tigers.

2003 BBM Nippon Series #12
He played for the Japan National Team three times - the 2003 Asian Championship, the 2004 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He has cards for the 2003 team and a couple cards from Topps for the WBC.
2009 Topps WBC #54 

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