- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 180 lb.
Akira Okamoto had a wildly fluctuating career in 8 years in Nippon Pro Baseball, followed with a great year in Europe then moved to the independent leagues.
Okamoto was a second-round draft pick of the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1995. He had a huge year in his rookie season, going 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 1997. He was second to only Satoru Komiyama in ERA in the Pacific League.
Akira fell to 8-13, 4.04 in his second season and in 1999 was 9-12 with a 4.79 ERA, leading the PL in losses, hit batters (10), runs allowed (92), earned runs allowed (85) and hits allowed (187) in 159 2/3 IP, a far cry from his rookie year. It was his last year as a regular starter in NPB.
In 2000, Okamoto plummeted to 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA in 25 innings with the Buffaloes and either spent the year injured or in the minors. The next season, Akira rocketed back. He went 4-4 with 8 saves and a 2.73 ERA in 61 appearances (102 1/3 IP) for Kintetsu and made the first of two PL All-Star teams. He had a 3.86 ERA in three appearances in the 2001 Japan Series, losing game four but getting Kintetsu's lone win in game two. He served as Akinori Otsuka's set-up man that year.
In 2002, Okamoto split closer duties with Otsuka. He went 7-2 with 18 saves and a 1.82 ERA in 65 outings, walking only 12 in 69 1/3 IP. He made his second All-Star team that year.
Okamoto crumbled after that. In 2003, the 30-year-old hurler was 1-3 with two saves and a 4.76 ERA, allowing 45 hits in 34 innings. The next year, he only pitched four games for the Buffaloes, allowing six hits, two homers, two walks and three runs in three innings. Overall, he had gone 39-42 with 28 saves and a 3.73 ERA in 271 games for the Buffaloes.
In 2006, Okamoto moved to ADO of the Hoofdklasse and went 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA. In 105 innings, he allowed 62 hits and 28 walks while fanning 100. He had the lowest ERA in the Dutch league that year. He also finished third in strikeouts and second in shutouts (2).
Akira signed with the Canadian-American League's Nashua Pride for the 2007 season. He debuted on May 25 against the North Shore Spirit and pitched five shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing four hits. Fellow Japanese hurler Hideki Nagasaka blew the game by giving up two runs in the sixth so Okamoto wound up with a no-decision. Nashua rallied in the 9th for a 3-2 victory. As of September 3, 2007, Okamoto was 9-2 with a 2.88 ERA, placing him fourth in the league leaders list. The Pride went into the playoffs against the New Jersey Jackals, where Okamoto pitched and won game 2 on September 6, striking out eight batters. After winning the playoffs the Pride entered the league championship series against the North Shore Spirit. Okamoto pitched the series opener, resulting in a win for the Pride. The Pride later went on to win the championship.
Sources: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland, 2007 Baseball Almanac Marco Stoovelaar's page on Dutch baseball Okamoto Lets Pride Get Even, Nashua Telegraph Nashua Pride Pride Win Can-Am Title, Nashua Telegraph