From BR Bullpen
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Saga Higashi High School
Hatsuhiko Tsuji was a nine-time All-Star second baseman in Nippon Pro Baseball.
After high school, Tsuji played for Nihon Tsuun in Japan's industrial leagues. The Seibu Lions took him in the second round in 1983. He hit .209/.294/.363 in 41 games in 1984. He batted .275/.366/.410 with 27 steals in 30 tries in 1985. He was 4 for 17 with 3 doubles in the 1985 Japan Series, which Seibu dropped to the Hanshin Tigers.
In 1986, he improved to .296/.359/.414 with 35 swipes in 50 tries. He made his first Pacific League All-Star team but led the league in times caught stealing. He also won a Gold Glove and was named to the Best Nine as the PL's top second sacker. He hit .219/.286/.219 in the 1986 Japan Series, as Seibu beat the Hiroshima Carp.
Tsuji struggled in 1987 (.200/.242/.304, 10 SB, 1 CS, 9 R in 51 G). He was 3 for 16 with a walk in the 1987 Japan Series and was caught stealing in both of his attempts. He had one of the most famous Japan Series baserunning plays ever, though, in game six. With two outs in the 8th, he was on first when Koji Akiyama singled. With Yomiuri Giants CF Warren Cromartie slow in getting to the ball and then tossing it softly to SS Masahiro Kawai, Tsuji motored all the way from first to home. It was Seibu's last run in a 3-1 victory that locked up the Series.
Hatsuhiko returned to the All-Star team in 1988; he hit .263/.313/.334 and stole only 13 bases in 25 tries. He led the PL in times caught stealing. He won his second Gold Glove at second base. In the 1988 Japan Series, he went 4 for 15 with a walk, triple, homer (in game four), four runs and two RBI in a five-game win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Tsuji improved to .304/.358/.375 in 1989 and stole 33 bases in 40 tries. He was an All-Star, Gold Glove winner and Best Nine pick. He finished 7th in the Pacific League in average. In 1990, the veteran infielder posted a .266/.347/.337 line and swiped 31 bases while being thrown out nine times (the latter figure surprisingly high enough to lead the PL). He made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove but Daijiro Oishi beat him out for Best Nine honors (the only other second baseman to take home the PL award from 1989-1993). When Seibu swept Yomiuri in the 1990 Japan Series, Tsuji went 8 for 16 with four runs, but lost Japan Series MVP honors to slugger Orestes Destrade.
The Saga native hit .271/.338/.382 with 27 doubles in 1991. He again was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and was chosen for the Best Nine. He batted .250/.323/.321 in the 1991 Japan Series, as Seibu beat Hiroshima for Tsuji's 5th Japan Series title in nine seasons as a pro.
Hatsuhiko batted .285/.373/.388 with 23 swipes in 30 tries in 1992. He made the Best Nine, was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and led the PL with eight times hit by pitch. He hit .250/.273/.281 with one run and no RBI in seven games in the 1992 Japan Series, but the Lions still prevailed over the the Yakult Swallows. He did play a huge role in game seven. With a 1-1 tie, he fielded a bases-loaded grounder and made a jumping, off-balance throw home to Tsutomu Itoh to get Katsumi Hirosawa at home. In the 10th, he doubled off Yoichi Okabayashi and later scored on an Akiyama sac fly with the winner. It was his sixth title-winning team - during that time, Seibu had beaten three different Central League teams in the finals.
Tsuji had a big year in 1993 at .319/.395/.424 with 51 walks to 37 strikeouts. He stole 14 bases in 20 tries, his last season with a double-digit steal total. He led the PL in both average (.010 over Hiroo Ishii) and OBP (barely edging Kazunori Yamamoto), was an All-Star, Best Nine pick and Gold Glove winner. It would be 12 years before another right-handed batter, Kazuhiro Wada, led the PL in average. It was his fifth and final Best Nine selection, a PL record. He hit .240/.406/.240 in the 1993 Japan Series, but Seibu fell to Yakult. That winter, he began a two-year term as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association, succeeding Kaoru Okazaki.
In 1994, the 35-year-old glove wizard hit .294/.351/.379. He was 8th in the PL in average, between Ralph Bryant and Kevin Reimer. Tsuji won his 8th and last Gold Glove. In the 1994 Japan Series, he had one of his best Seres at .357/.379/.464, but the Lions dropped to Yomiuri in six contests. Kazuhiro Kiyohara was named MVP of the losing side. In his 12th season with Seibu, 1995, he hit .238/.342/.296. Hiroki Kokubo ended his Gold Glove run at second. He was released after the campaign as part of a salary disagreement.
Signing with Yakult, Tsuji batted .333/.409/.380 in a resurgent 1996. He made the Central League All-Star team. He was second in the CL in average (.007 behind Alonzo Powell) and second in OBP (behind Akira Eto). He failed to win the Best Nine nod at second at Kazuyoshi Tatsunami (who had more power and a better OPS) was chosen.
Tsuji hit .262/.315/.326 in 1997 while splitting second base with Katsuyuki Dobashi. In the 1997 Japan Series, when Yakult beat his old Seibu mates, he did not get into any games in the field as Dobashi was used. Tsuji was 0 for 2 as a pinch-hitter. It was his 7th and last Japan Series championship.
In 1,562 games in NPB, Tsuji hit .282/.352/.370 with 217 doubles and 242 steals in 328 tries.