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Akihiro Higashide (東出 輝裕)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 7", Weight 160 lb.
- High School Tsuruga Kehi High School
Akihiro Higashide has been an infielder for the Hiroshima Carp for 10 years (through 2008).
Higashide hit .464 with 34 HR in high school, but would not show that kind of power as a pro. He played for the Japanese junior national team in 1998. He was a first round draft pick later that year, taken by the Hiroshima Carp. Akihiro got his first game on May 11, 1999, as Hiroshima's starting second baseman; that game, he had an infield hit off Yusaku Iriki for his first base hit. He was Hiroshima's main second baseman that year, hitting .227/.273/.258 in 78 games to lead a crowded group.
In 2000, Higashide batted .261/.309/.333 with 17 steals in 23 tries. He fielded only .958 while playing 116 games at short and one at third base as long-time shortstop Kenjiro Nomura moved to third base. He tied Takuya Kimura for 2nd on the team in swipes behind Tomoaki Kanemoto. He hit his first career home run off of Greg Hansell on April 8.
Higashide fielded .961 with 27 errors in 2001 and hit .262/.310/.349. He scored 82 runs and stole 26 bases in 35 tries. He tied Kimura and Atsunori Inaba for the Central League lead with five triples and set a Carp team record with 49 sacrifice hits. the mark stood for 12 years until his successor at 2B, Ryosuke Kikuchi, broke it.
In the 2001 Baseball World Cup, Higashide did a great job, hitting .324/.432/.405 with 10 runs and 10 RBI in 10 games; he fielded only .905 at third base. He tied Tadahito Iguchi and Evert-Jan 't Hoen for 3rd in the Cup in RBI, trailing leader Chin-Feng Chen by 4. He made the tourney All-Star team at third base, beating out legendary Omar Linares as well as Michel Enríquez, Tai-Shan Chang and Chris Snopek. He joined infield mate Hirokazu Ibata on the All-Star infield while Iguchi missed out. In the Bronze Medal game loss to Taiwan, he went 0 for 3 and struck out twice against Chih-Chia Chang.
Akihiro's batting line in 2002 read .239/.281/.271 while continuing to hold down the starting shortstop job for Hiroshima. He was only 12 for 82 in 2003 while backing up Kimura at second; Andy Sheets took over at shortstop for Hiroshima.
In 2004, Higashide hit .240/.288/.307 in 85 plate appearances over 76 games. He was used as a backup to 2B Greg LaRocca and also pinch-ran and pinch-hit at times. The next year, he batted .209/.264/.284 in 39 games as a middle infield backup.
Higashide got back into regular duty in 2006 when LaRocca departed for free agency. He made his first Central League All-Star team and hit .282/.321/.306. For a leadoff hitter, he showed very disappointing speed, only stealing 11 bases while being thrown out a circuit-high 18 bases.
In 2007, Higashide hit .269/.318/.295 and was much better stealing (13-17). In 458 AB, he only managed 12 doubles, no triples and no home runs. He had his third straight homer-free year in 2008 but improved to .310/.337/.341 and went 13-for-21 in steals. He was 9th in the league in average, just ahead of defending MVP Michihiro Ogasawara (also .310). He was 7th in the league in hits (162) and 9th in runs (76). He made the Best Nine as the top second baseman in the Central League.
Through 2008, Higashide's career batting line is .264/.308/.307 in 1,014 NPB games. He has stolen 110 bases but been caught 59 times. He has only hit 11 home runs in 3,292 AB, with five of those coming in 2001 alone.