Thursday, March 3, 2016

Nobuhiko Matsunaka

Long time Fukuoka Softbank (and Daiei) Hawk Nobuhiko Matsunaka announced his retirement earlier this week.  He had been released by the Hawks at the end of last season but he had hoped to sign with another team.  He had given himself until the end of February to sign with someone and when it didn't happen, he decided to call it a career.

Matsunaka had spent five seasons playing for Nippon Steel Kimitsu in the industrial leagues after graduating from high school before being drafted in the second round of the fall 1996 draft by the then Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (who took Tadahito Iguchi in the first round).  He became a regular for the Hawks in 1999 and a star in 2000.  He remained a star for the Hawks for the next decade before injuries started to take their toll.

Matsunaka's best year was 2004 when he won the triple crown by leading the Pacific League in batting, home runs and RBIs (as well as hits and OBP).  As you'd expect, he won the MVP that year (his second - he also won in 2000).  He won another batting title in 2006, another home run crown in 2005 and RBI titles in 2004 and 2006.  He was named to the Best 9 team five times (2000, 2003-06) and won a Golden Glove once (2004).  He made the Pacific League All Star team nine times between 1999 and 2009, missing only in 2002 and 2006 (he was selected in 2006 but missed the game due to injury).

He appeared in five Nippon Series during his career - winning it all four times (1999, 2003, 2011 and 2014) and losing in 2000.  He did not appear for the Hawks in last year's Series.  He played for the Japanese National Team in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Here's a card from each year of his career:

1997 BBM #478

1998 BBM Hawks #FD50

1999 BBM Nippon Series #S20

2000 Upper Deck Sydney Olympics #215

2001 Upper Deck Victory #040

2002 Calbee "Sayonora Home Run" #SH-2

2003 BBM 2nd Version #698

2004 BBM 1st Version #382

2005 BBM 1st Version #61

2006 Upper Deck WBC Moments #CM-19

2007 Club Hawks

2008 BBM Hawks 70th Anniversary #93

2009 BBM All Stars #A31

2010 BBM 1st Version "Cross Stream" #CS123

2011 BBM Hawks #HMT

2012 Calbee #001

2013 BBM Classic #052

2014 BBM 2nd Version #420

2015 BBM 25th Anniversary #095

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