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Kazuhiro Wada

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Kazuhiro Wada (Ben)

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[edit] Biographical Information

In college, Kazuhiro Wada was MVP of the Sendai Big Six University League as a senior and won the batting title. He hit .429 for Kobe Seiko in the industrial leagues, then in 1996 was drafted in the fourth round of the NPB draft by the Seibu Lions. He spent time in ni-gun and hit .190/.190/.238 in 1997 when he first played for Seibu and was 0 for 1 in the 1997 Japan Series. In '98, Wada hit .333/.382/.549 in 36 games for Seibu and split his time between catching and the outfield. He went 0 for 2 in the 1998 Japan Series. In 1999, he batted .271/.308/.354 while again seeing limited time behind the plate with Tsutomu Itoh starting.

At age 27/28, Kazuhiro began playing semiregularly as an outfielder and put up a .306/.360/.382 line and then .306/.372/.592 the next year, still not yet an everyday player. In 2002, Wada finally became a starter and responded by batting .319/.357/.610 with 33 homers. Playing left field and DH, he made the Best Nine as the top designated hitter in the Pacific League. He finished third in slugging behind teammates Alex Cabrera and Kazuo Matsui. His Japan Series woes continued with a miserable 0-for-15 in the 2002 Japan Series as Seibu got swept by the Yomiuri Giants.

Wada did even better in 2003, producing at a great .346/.428/.632 clip, hitting .379 with runners in scoring position, homering 30 times, scoring 87 and driving in 89. He made his first All-Star team and was on the Best Nine as an outfielder alongside Yoshitomo Tani and Tuffy Rhodes. Kazuhiro finished third in the PL in average (behind Michihiro Ogasawara and Tani) and slugging (behind Cabera and Ogasawara). He was fourth in OBP behind Ogasawara, Tadahito Iguchi and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. In the 2003 Asian Championship, Wada played for the Gold Medal-winning Japanese squad.

2004 was an eventful year for Kazuhiro. He hit .320/.425/.607 (.375 with RISP), homered 30 times and drove in 89 despite missing time for the 2004 Olympics. For the bronze medal Japanese club in the Olympics, he hit .333 and slugged .636. Hitting cleanup or fifth for Seibu, he was honored again as an All-Star and Best Nine (Tani and Tsuyoshi Shinjo were the other outfielders). In the 2004 Japan Series, he finally broke his postseason struggles in a big way by batting .310/.333/.897 with four homers in Seibu's victory over the Chunichi Dragons. Wada broke a 54-year-old record for most extra-base hits in a Japan Series with eight, breaking Isao Harimoto's record of 7 in the 1950 Japan Series. His 26 total bases were a Japan Series record, breaking Yasumitsu Toyoda's 46-year-old record of 25; he tied the record with four homers in a series and his two homers in game six helped Seibu to a 4-2 victory to tie the series at three. Takashi Ishii beat him out for Series MVP honors, though.

Wada continued his dazzling pace in 2005, putting up a .322/.397/.573 line though his 27 homers were his lowest total in four years. He made his fourth straight All-Star contingent. He edged Julio Zuleta (.319) and Matsunaka (.315) for the first PL batting title won by a right-handed hitter since Hatsuhiko Tsuji in 1993. He was 4th in slugging (behind Matsunaka, Zuleta and Cabrera), third in OBP (behind Matsunaka and Cabrera), tied for third in runs (80, trailining Matsunaka and Ogasawara), first in hits (153), second in doubles (32, three behind Toshiaki Imae). His career line through 2005 was .321/.393/.577.

Kazuhiro was on the winning Japanese club in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and went 0 for 2 with one strikeout in two games as the backup LF to Hitoshi Tamura. Wada hit .298/.392/.494 in 2006 and finished third in the PL with 95 RBI, second to Fernando Seguignol with 34 doubles, was 8th with 144 hits, 7th with 239 total bases, tied for 7th with 72 runs, second with 78 walks (trailing only Matsunaka), was 4th in OBP and 8th in slugging. His home run total continued to fall, down to 19, still tied for 7th in the PL.

He re-signed for Seibu for 275 million yen plus incentives. He was on Japan's team for the 2007 Asian Championship but did not appear in a game.

For 2008, Wada signed with the Chunichi Dragons to replace the departing Kosuke Fukudome in the outfield.

Wada's hobbies are fishing, pachinko and mah jong.

Main Source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland

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