Swallows regular second baseman, Hatsuhiko Tsuji
came to Yakult in 1996 after being given an
ultimatum from the Seibu Lions: either become a
coach or be released. Still feeling he had a few
good seasons left in him, Tsuji joined the
Swallows in 1996 and batted .333 (second highest
in the Central League).
watching Tsuji play against the Swallows in two
Japan Series, Yakult manager Katsuya Nomura
reportedly told his players to model themselves
after him. It was little surprise that the
Swallows took a chance on such an old-timer.
Though not much of a power hitter
(53 career home runs), the 39-year-old infielder
knows how to get on base. A lifetime .276 hitter
who draws a diminishing share of walks, Tsuji
earned the 1993 Pacific League batting crown with
a .310 average.
Despite his age, Tsuji remains a
solid defensive second baseman. Flipping the ball
directly from his glove to the shortstop has
become Tsuji's trademark play, something that has
become more popular in Japan recently.
Injuries have take their toll on his
career. Reportedly, Tsuji's absences led the
Lions to release him. Since 1993, he's missed an
average of twenty to thirty games a season, and
in 1997 he sat out fifty games.
Batting .262 with a relatively low
.315 on base percentage last year, the prognosis
the Lions delivered two years ago may be catching
up to their departed second baseman. For most of
the season, Tsuji shared second base with
Katsuyuki Dobashi and Toshifumi Baba.
But Tsuji apparently isn't worrying
too much. Though he's played the last two seasons
on borrowed time, that's more of an opportunity
than he would have had with the Lions.
In most of the blooper programs that
were shown in Japanese television in 1997, Tsuji
was often seen practicing and goofing around with
outfielder Dwayne Hosey. Maybe he's decided that
he's going to have some fun in his last few
|PL Batting Title
|1986, 89, 91-93