Takuya Kimura (木村 拓也)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 8", Weight 165 lb.
- High School Miyazaki Minami High School
Takuya Kimura was a backup for his first decade in Japanese baseball before becoming a starter for his second decade. He made two All-Star teams in Japan and played in the Olympics. He played every position except pitcher in his 19 seasons, then became a coach. He was born the same year as actor/singer Takuya Kimura and the two became friends.
Kimura hit 30 home runs in high school. He was undrafted and signed in 1991 with the Nippon Ham Fighters as a catcher. He was moved to the outfield in 1992, when he was 3 for 13 with a walk, triple and steal in 6 games. In 1993, he was 3 for 16 with 2 walks and 4 runs in 29 games. Kimura was a defensive substitute outfielder for the Fighters in 1994, playing 80 games in the outfield but only getting 39 AB; he hit .205/.225/.282 and made no errors.
Kimura was traded to the Hiroshima Carp that off-season for Hiroshi Nagadomi. He was 0 for 7 in 7 games for the 1995 Carp. In 1996, the 24-year-old was 2 for 14 with 5 runs and 4 steals (in 6 tries) in 30 games, primarily as a defensive substitute and pinch-runner.
Kimura had 88 plate appearances, a new career high to that point, in 1997, playing 77 games. He also became a switch-hitter that season. He hit .231/.302/.244 with 8 steals in 9 tries. The next year, the veteran increased his playing time to 86 games and 150 plate appearances, producing at a .244/.310/.313 rate.
Kimura was Hiroshima's second-most second baseman in 1999 (his 44 games were second to Akihiro Higashide) while still playing occasionally in the outfield (25 games). He hit .249/.282/.332 in 205 AB and 90 games. He finally hit his first career homer, connecting off of Jason Jacome on June 1.
In his 9th season, 2000, Kimura finally became a starter. He made the most of his chance, hitting .288/.330/.407 with 34 doubles, 10 homers and 74 runs. He stole 17 bases but was caught 15 times. He made his first Central League All-Star team. For someone who had never been a regular starter before, he oddly led the CL in both plate appearances (620) and at-bats (572). He led the CL in doubles as well.
Kimura remained productive in 2001, batting .263/.336/.361 with 78 runs and 18 steals in 29 attempts. He made his second CL All-Star club. He tied Atsunori Inaba and teammate Higashide for the most triples (5) in the circuit.
In 2002, Takuya's batting line was .238/.278/.323. He saw significant time that year at third base (99 games, second on the club to Takahiro Arai), second base (64 games, second to Eddy Diaz), shortstop (46 games, second to Higashide) and the outfield (36 games). Hiroshima apparently went to many late game defensive switches given that Kimura fit all that action into 130 games played.
Kimura hit .285/.333/.408 with a career-high 13 homers in 2003. He was the club's primary second baseman as Diaz was gone; the infield as a whole was relatively stable, with Arai moving to first, Andy Sheets coming aboard to play short and old-timer Kenjiro Nomura taking over third base. Kimura was on Japan's roster for the 2003 Asian Championship but did not make it into a game.
The 13-year veteran batted .248/.318/.360 in 85 games in 2004, moving to a utility role as Greg LaRocca was the club's new second baseman. Perhaps given his versatility and the small roster sizes, he played for Japan in the 2004 Olympics. He was used as a defensive sub for Yoshitomo Tani in left field, going 2 for 5 with a double and 2 RBI in his limited playing time. He did not handle a chance in 11 innings in left. Almost all of his playing time came in the Bronze Medal game, when he got all his at-bats and played all 9 innings in left in a 11-2 rout of the Australian national team. Kimura hit .246/.308/.294 in 111 games in 2005.
In 2006, he was traded mid-season to the Yomiuri Giants for Shinsuke Yamada. He finished with a batting line of .260/.335/.308 in 62 games. Despite his limited performance, he was among their better choices at both second base (where Makoto Kosaka, Ryota Wakiya and Toshihisa Nishi all struggled) and right field (where Yoshiyuki Kamei and Kenji Yano were unexceptional).
Luis A. Gonzalez was signed by Yomiuri in the off-season to take over from the second base mess but he too failed to perform well and Kimura got into 113 games with 311 AB in 2007. He hit .264/.306/.344.
Gonzalez started 2008 with a bang but was kicked off the team after positive tests for banned substances. That again opened the door for Kimura and the veteran responded by batting .293/.347/.406 in 124 games, his most in five years. He was 6th in the CL with 26 sacrifice hits. He went 4 for 24 with a walk in the 2008 Japan Series, as Yomiuri fell to the Seibu Lions.
Overall, Kimura had batted .262/.315/.354 in 4,487 plate appearances and 1,523 games in NPB.
Coaching and Untimely Death
Primary Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland