- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 145 lb.
Hiromasa Arai is a member of the meikyukai.
Arai's family name was originally Park, but it was changed to Arai as they were from Korea. The Nankai Hawks took him in the second round of the 1974 draft. He hit .303/.353/.388 in 50 games as a rookie in 1975. He became a starter in 1976 and produced at a .271/.308/.355 rate with 8 triples and 20 steals (in 25 tries). He had only 20 walks and 21 whiffs in 446 plate appearances. He slumped to .227/.302/.296 in 1977 then rebounded somewhat to .253/.304/.308 in 1978.
The Hosei alumnus then erupted in 1979, hitting .358/.402/.428 with 17 steals in 23 tries. An extreme singles hitter, he had only 3 hits longer than a double and 28 walks. He had one string of eight hits in eight straight at-bats. He finished second in the Pacific League in average, only .006 behind leader Hideji Kato. He made his first Best Nine, joining Shigeru Kurihashi and Yutaka Fukumoto as the outfielders picked.
In 1980, Arai slumped all the way back to .262/.320/.370. He was back at .300 in 1981 with a batting line of .300/.355/.414 and 8 triples. He was 11th in the PL in average but first in three-baggers. He improved to .315/.366/.455 with 29 doubles in 1982. He again finished second in the batting title race, this time 10 points behind Hiromitsu Ochiai. He was 3 doubles behind Ochiai for the lead. He made the Best Nine, again picked with Kurihashi and Fukumoto in the outfield.
Arai moved from Nankai to the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the off-season and switched uniform numbers (to 9). In 1986, the Osaka native hit .288/.317/.434 with 31 doubles. He led the circuit with 184 hits and tied Hiromi Matsunaga for the most doubles, but did not make the top 10 in average. He was picked for the Best Nine, joining Koji Akiyama and Masashi Yokota.
Hiromasa had his career season in 1987, peaking at 13 home runs and a .366/.403/.507 batting line. He went 100 straight plate appearances without striking out one time as well as a 24-game hitting streak. He became the third Japanese player to win a batting title at age 35 (no one had won one older), an easy 35 points ahead of Boomer Wells. Arai also tied Yokota for the most triples (5), led in hits (184) and won his only Gold Glove. He joined Akiyama and Tony Brewer as the Best Nine picks in the PL outfield. He did not win the MVP, which went to pitcher Osamu Higashio. It would be his last season as a league leader in any category.
Arai hit .286/.327/.409 in 1988 and had a run of 109 consecutive plate appearances without striking out. He hit .302/.363/.414 in 1989, finishing 9th in average (between Takeshi Aiko and Akiyama). In the 1989 Japan Series, his only Japan Series, he was 9 for 27 with a triple and two walks as Kintetsu fell to the Yomiuri Giants in 7 games. He had only one run and one RBI. He won the Fighting Spirit Award as the MVP of the losing squad, though Kintetsu SS Yasunaga Makishi had better offensive numbers.
In 1990, Arai was at .292/.357/.416. He was 8th in average, between Brewer and Yukio Tanaka. He topped .300 one last time in 1991, when the 18-year veteran hit .309/.373/.396. Finally showing age, he hit .220/.294/.319 at 40 in 1992 to wrap up his career. As he passed 2,000 hits that year, he joined the meikyukai.
Overall, Arai batted .291/.342/.395 in 2,076 NPB games, with 338 doubles and 165 steals in 224 tries. He had 422 strikeouts in 7,011 at-bats. Through 2010, he was 15th in NPB history in triples (65), tied with Shinichi Eto and Kihachi Enomoto for 18th in sacrifice flies (67), 5th in sacrifice hits (300, behind only Masahiro Kawai, Ken Hirano, Shinya Miyamoto and Tsutomu Itoh) and 30th in games played.
Source: Japan Baseball Daily