Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Koji Aoyama

Koji Aoyama, longtime bullpen mainstay for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, announced his retirement back in November.  Aoyama was the third round pick of the Eagles in the 2005 University/industrial league draft out of Hachinohe Gakuin University.  He made the Eagles Opening Day roster in 2006 and spent most of the season working in middle relief.  The team moved him into the starting rotation at the beginning of 2007 but moved him back into the bullpen after a couple months.  He worked out of the bullpen for pretty much the rest of his career.

He had a couple brief stints as closer in 2008 and 2009 but he took over the role from Darrell Rasner in May of 2012 and kept it for the remainder of the season.  He had 22 saves that year which was a new team record (and has since been surpassed by Yuki Matsui).  He made the All Star team for the first time.  He started out the 2013 season as the closer and notched 11 saves before losing the role to Rasner in the middle of the season.  He made the All Star team again but suffered an injury late in the season that prevented him from playing in the Nippon Series that year, the only time the Eagles have ever played for the championship.  

He spent the remainder of his career as a set up man and was a work horse for the team, appearing in 50 games or more four times in the five years between 2015 and 2019.   He only got into 11 games with the ichi-gun team in 2020 and Rakuten released him at the end of the season.  He's been working as a coach with the Rakuten Eagles Baseball Academy as well as doing some commentary on game broadcasts (radio, I think).

His first BBM cards were from the 2006 Rookie Edition (#45) and 1st Version (#207) sets.  I was a bit surprised to discover he only ever had two Calbee cards, both from 2012 - #029 from the Series One set and #173 from the Series Three set.  Here's a handful of his cards:

2006 BBM Rookie Edition #45

2006 BBM 1st Version #207

2010 Bandai Owners League 04 #083

2012 BBM All Stars #A14

2016 BBM 1st Version #142

2017 BBM Eagles #E18

2019 BBM Fusion #GR11

2020 Epoch NPB #082

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