Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Tomotaka Sakaguchi

Another player who hung up his shoes at the end of the 2022 season was Tomotaka Sakaguchi of the Swallows.  Sakaguchi was taken in the the first round of the 2002 draft out of Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku High School by the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.  He played in eight games with the ichi-gun Buffaloes over the next two years and as a result is the last former Kintetsu player still active in NPB*.

* Kazuki Kondoh, who played for Kintetsu in 2002-04, was a player-coach for the Kagawa Olive Guyners of the Shikoku Island League last season.  He also retired at the end of the season so there are now no former Kintetsu players still active.

Sakaguchi ended up on the Orix Buffaloes when the dust of the Kintetsu-Orix merger/Rakuten Eagles birth mess settled.  He spent most of the next three years on the farm (with a stint in the Hawaiian Winter League with the West Oahu CaneFires in the fall of 2006) but became a regular on the top team in 2008.  He had three straight seasons hitting .300 (or close to it) from 2009 to 2011 but he went into a slump at the beginning of the 2012 and then hurt his shoulder.  He had a strained back that cost him some playing time the next year but he was healthy enough to play in 122 games in 2014 although he only hit .235.  Injuries again cut into his playing time in 2015.  At the end of the season, Orix offered him a contract with a significant pay cut.  Sakaguchi refused it and became a free agent.  

He joined the Swallows for the 2016 season and experienced a bit of a career renaissance, getting into a career high 141 games and hitting .295.  He followed that with two solid seasons, hitting .317 in 2018, his highest average since he had hit .318 in 2009.  He missed much of the 2019 season with injuries but bounced back with a healthy season in 2020 although his average dipped to .246.  Injuries again cost him playing time in 2021 although he was healthy enough to play in the Nippon Series that year, winning a championship for the only time in his career.  He spent most of last year on the farm and announced his retirement at the end of September.  He'll be a coach for the Fire Country Salamanders of the independent Kyushu Asia League.

Sakaguchi made two All Star teams (2011 & 2018) and won four Golden Gloves (2008-11).  He led the Pacific League in hits in 2011 and triples in 2010 and 2011.  

His first cards are from the 2003 BBM Rookie Edition (#55) and 1st Version (#241) sets.  He appeared in at least one of BBM's flagship sets (1st or 2nd Version) every year from 2008 to 2021.  His first Calbee card wasn't until the 2008 Series Two set (#191).  He also appears in the 2006 West Oahu CaneFires team set.  Here's some of his cards:

2003 BBM Rookie Edition #55

2003 BBM 1st Version #241

2006 BBM Buffaloes #Bs65

2008 Calbee #191

2011 BBM 2nd Version #542

2011 BBM All Stars #A33

2012 BBM 1st Version #337

2013 Calbee #151

2015 Calbee #041

2019 BBM 1st Version #208

2020 BBM Fusion #GR24

2022 BBM Swallows History 1950-2022 #90

No comments: