Akihiro Yano (Teru, Aki, Yanopu)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 178 lb.
Catcher Akihiro Yano is in his 18th season in Nippon Pro Baseball in 2008 and is the oldest member of Japan's team in the 2008 Olympics. He has been a late bloomer, not making his first All-Star team until he was 30 years old. Though he did not start his career with them, Yano holds the Hanshin Tigers record for hits by a catcher.
Yano helped Japan to a Silver Medal in the 1990 Goodwill Games. He was chosen by the Chunichi Dragons in the second round of the 1990 draft out of college. He debuted with the Dragons in 1991 and went 3 for 27 with 15 strikeouts. His first hit was a pinch-hit homer off of Koji Noda on August 26. In 1992, he played 72 games, getting 118 plate appearances, and hit .259/.314/.315. He was 10 for 31 in 1993 and 10 for 46 in 1994.
In 1995, Yano produced at a .243/.293/.322 rate in 57 games as the backup to Takeshi Nakamura. In 1996, he batted .346/.426/.577 in a similar role with 7 home runs in 104 AB. Given that performance, Yano split playing time with Nakamura in 1997 and hit .252/.331/.332 in 244 plate appearances. That winter, he was traded with slugger Yasuaki Taiho to the Hanshin Tigers for Koichi Sekikawa and Teruyoshi Kuji.
Yano hit .211/.288/.305 in 1998 as Hanshin's starting catcher. He improved to .304/.371/.374 in a major turnaround in 1999 and made his first Central League All-Star team. He finished 10th in the league in average, right behind Hideki Matsui. He failed to make the Best Nine as Atsuya Furuta was chosen at catcher.
Yano batted .269/.334/.346 in 2000. In 2001, he hit .242/.301/.352. In one game that year, his single off Shigeki Noguchi was the lone reason Noguchi did not get a perfect game. A year later, Akihiro produced at a .321/.395/.502 clip in 66 games and was an All-Star for the second time.
In 2003, Yano hit .328/.350/.506, .365 with runners in scoring position. He was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove Award and made the Best Nine at catcher. He was third in the CL in average behind Makoto Imaoka and Alex Ramirez, tied Ken Suzuki for third in OBP behind Kosuke Fukudome and Tomoaki Kanemoto and was 9th in slugging. He hit .261/.292/.391 in the 2003 Japan Series as Hanshin fell in 7 games to the Daiei Hawks.
Coming down from his high of 2003, Yano batted .285/.338/.408 in 2004 and made his 4th All-Star team. In 2005, Akihiro's batting line was .271/.323/.437 and he set a new career high with 19 home runs, tying Andy Sheets for third on the Tigers. He won his second Gold Glove and made his second Best Nine. He was a key performer in the 2005 Japan Series, going 5 for 12 with a walk on a team that otherwise hit .163 and was swept by the Chiba Lotte Marines. Yano won the Fighting Spirit Award as the MVP of the losing Japan Series club.
The veteran hit .273/.323/.444 with 17 HR and 78 RBI in 2006. Despite usually batting 8th, he was second on Hanshin in RBI, trailing Kanemoto. In 2007, Yano batted .236/.307/.331 for his worst OPS in 9 years.
He was on Japan's roster for the 2008 Olympics, going 1 for 5 with a double and walk as the third-stringer behind Shinnosuke Abe and Tomoya Satozaki; Japan failed to get a Medal. The 39-year-old Yano was not the oldest performer in baseball during those Olympics as Rheal Cormier pitched for Canada.
Yano's hobby is bass fishing. A member of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist group, he is a father of two.