Kiyoshi Hatsushiba (初芝清)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 209 lb.
- High School Nisho Gakushadai Fuzoku High School
The fourth-round pick of the Lotte Orions in 1988, poor-fielding third baseman Kiyoshi Hatsushiba debuted with the club the next year and hit .243/.280/.436, showing good line-drive power (18 doubles, 7 HR in 202 AB). He was given a regular role in '90 and hit .265/.301/.444 with 18 homers. He slipped to .254/.306/.394 in 1991 and continued his decline to .249/.292/.374 in '92, when the team was renamed the Chiba Lotte Marines. He led the Pacific League with six sacrifice flies.
In 1993, the 26-year-old picked it up a bit to .251/.314/.410. '94 finally saw Kiyoshi develop, batting .290/.342/.483 with 31 doubles, 17 homers and 75 RBI. He made his first PL All-Star team. Hatsushiba had his best season in 1995, expressing enthusiasm at the new style brought in by manager Bobby Valentine. He said "Under Valentine, we became winners for the first time in my career...It was fun playing for him." Kiyoshi produced at a .301/.358/.546 clip with 25 homers and 80 RBI. His 7 sacrifice flies led the league, he tied for third in homers (only three behind leader Hiroki Kokubo) and tied for the RBI lead with Ichiro Suzuki and Yukio Tanaka; the 80 was the lowest league-leading RBI total in PL history. Hatsushiba made the Best Nine as the top third baseman in the league for the only time in his career.
With Valentine gone in administrative conflict in 1996, Hatsushiba slipped to .264/.317/.443 with 17 homers and a career-worst 106 strikeouts. He made his third straight All-Star team but led the league by hitting into 16 double plays. He led the club in homers for the second straight season. In '97, Kiyoshi only played 75 games and managed just a .211/.252/.335 line. 1998 was a rebound season as the 31-year-old set highs in doubles (38), runs (68) and RBI (86) while tying his home run high of 25. He produced at a .296/.374/.548 rate and made his fourth and last All-Star team. He tied Kazuo Matsui for second in the PL in two-baggers.
In 1999, Hatsushiba hit .260/.338/.481 with 85 RBI, 22 homers and 33 doubles. He tied Kenji Johjima for third in the PL in doubles while being shuffled between third, DH and first base, primarily playing first now. He played for Japan in the 1999 Asian Championship; the team won a Silver Medal. The 2000 season had Kiyoshi hitting .276/.362/.510 with 23 HR, his 4th and final time topping 20. With Kazuya Fukuura at first and Frank Bolick at DH, Hatsushiba moved back to the hot corner.
2001 produced his third time leading the loop in sacrifice flies (8) while batting .253/.354/.456. In '02, Hatsushiba only hit .223/.295/.387; at age 35, he still homered 17 times (second on the team) but was not reaching base anymore and possessed neither speed (11 for 37 in steals during his career) nor a high-quality glove. He would move to the bench for the remainder of his playing days.
In his first season as a sub, Kiyoshi tied a Nippon Pro Baseball record by having hits in seven straight at-bats as a pinch-hitter in September. Overall, he hit a rejuvenated .312/.356/.528 in his new role. In 2004, Hatsushiba hit .282/.319/.465 as a very effective pinch-hitter and backup at DH and 3B behind Seung-Yeop Lee and Matt Franco respectively. He was also reunited with Valentine, back for a second tour of duty.
Kiyoshi's last year as a player saw him produce at a .220/.286/.320 line, only playing 13 games in the field as Toshiaki Imae now manned third. Chiba Lotte won their first pennant as Hatsushiba finally tasted victory for the first time in his 17-year career. It would not have been possible without him. In the decisive game five of the Pacific League playoffs, the Marines trailed the SoftBank Hawks 2 to 1 in the 8th inning against Koji Mise. Hatsushiba entered as a pinch-hitter and singled. That began a flurry of three more hits as Fukuura singled. After one out against reliever Takahiro Mahara, catcher Tomoya Satozaki doubled home both runners for a 3-2 edge which would stand up, earning the Marines a trip to their first Japan Series. Kiyoshi was 0 for 1 in the only Japan Series game of his career.
Kiyoshi Hatsushiba, during his career, hit .265/.326/.455. Frequently one of the top power threats on his team, he made four All-Star teams and hit 332 doubles and 232 homers, driving in 879. At that point in time, he was tied for 25th all-time in NPB with 59 sacrifice flies and was 28th with 1,082 strikeouts. He missed the top 30 in doubles by only six.
After retiring, Hatsushiba became a coach on Valentine's staff.