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Kenjiro Nomura

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Kenjiro Nomura

BR minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Kenjiro Nomura made the Tohto University Baseball League Best Nine every year in college. Overall, he stole 52 bases in college, including a TMUL-record 18 in a season. Nomura played for the Japanese second-place team in the 1988 Olympics. In the 1988 Baseball World Cup, Nomura hit .320/.370/.480 and stole four bases in five tries while splitting time between third base and shortstop. He was drafted in the first round of the 1988 NPB draft by the Hiroshima Carp and would spend the next 16 years with Hiroshima as a player.

Nomura hit .258/.302/.351 as a part-timer in his rookie season, stealing 21 bases in 26 tries. In 1990, Kenjiro batted .287/.354/.464, hit 16 homers and 28 doubles and stole 33 bases, but was caught 23 times. He led the Central League in SB, CS, times hit by pitch (9) and triples (8) and made the first of eight All-Star appearances, as a shortstop.

1991 was another fine year for Nomura (.324/.366/.450) and he had his best season in terms of batting average. Stealing 31 in 36 tries, he led in SB once more with a much better rate. He again led in triples (7) and had the most at-bats (524) and hits (170). He made the All-Star squad and Best Nine at shortstop. In one game, he reached base on a wild pitch three times, a NPB record.

In 1992, the 25-year-old hit .288/.358/.424 and stole 21 in 27 attempts, 12 swipes fewer than league leader Tetsuya Iida. His 89 runs led the CL. '93 was his weakest full season yet as he hit .266/.319/.383 and was thrown out 9 times in 21 steal tries but still led the league in runs (67). He also returned to the All-Star game after one year out.

The Hiroshima shortstop bounced back in 1994, putting up a .303/.357/.407 line, stole 37 (in 51 tries), leading in AB (558), runs (77), hits (169), stolen bases and times caught stealing. 1995 was a career year as the 28-year-old adjusted his style, focusing more on power. Hitting .315/.380/.560, he smacked 32 homers, second in the Central, behind only Akira Eto's 39. He tied Bobby Rose for second in batting average (trailing only Alonzo Powell), was third in slugging (behind Eto and Powell) and third with 30 steals (behind Koichi Ogata and Eto). He scored 109 runs, becoming just the 4th Central Leaguer ever with so many - only Sadaharu Oh (several times), Makoto Kozuru and Koji Yamamoto had done so before. He also set a Hiroshima club record with a league-leading 173 hits and led the league with 308 total bases. Making his second Best Nine as a pro, he became the 6th man in NPB history to hit .300 while going 30-30. He also won his only Gold Glove award that year. Hiroshima, often a cellar-dweller, finished second.

Nomura never came close to duplicating his 1995 campaign and never again led the league in anything except AB. He batted .292/.343/.432 in 1996 and made his third and last Best Nine and his 5th All-Star team. On June 30, he hit three sacrifice flies in a game, tying the NPB record. He stole only 8 bases in 15 attempts.

In 1997, the 30-year-old stole 26 in 31 tries, his 7th and last 20-steal season. Hitting .280/.349/.398, he was an All-Star and tied Iida for second in the league in steals, behind Ogata. 1998 was his final All-Star season - .282/.333/.417 with 15 SB in 24 tries, his last time with double-digit steals. Hitting 14 homers, he reached double digits there for the 9th straight year, but for the final time of his career.

Eddy Diaz joined the team in '99 as a shortstop and Nomura began to bounce around the infield in a utility role. Nomura was the All-Star third baseman in the 1999 Asian Championship, in which Japan won Silver. He hit .291/.355/.406 and became the 4th-fastest player in NPB history to reach 1,500 career hits. Moving full-time to third base in 2000, he was Hiroshima's main man in a group there and batted only .240/.298/.298, not enough for a corner infielder whose speed was gone (1 SB in 2 tries).

In 2001, the 34-year-old veteran batted .273/.324/.390 while holding down third for Hiroshima. Takahiro Arai took over as the starter at the hot corner in 2002 and Kenjiro batted only .211/.249/.286 off the bench. In '03, Nomura bounced back to .274/.342/.348 as Arai moved to first and Kenjiro retook third base.

Turning 38 in 2004, Nomura again remained the mainstay at 3B for the Carp and put up a .270/.319/.373 line. In 2005, he switched spots with the younger Arai and was the club's primary first baseman, hitting .275/.321/.371 in his final season.

Overall, Nomura batted .285/.341/.414, made eight All-Star teams, three Best Nines and led his leagues in numerous categories, including runs four years in a row. He scored 935 runs, homered 169 times and stole 250 bases. He once hoped to play in Major League Baseball but a groin pull and hernia surgery and declined production dashed those hopes. While not an All-time NPB star, Kenjiro clearly was one of the top Central League infielders of the 1990s.

After retiring as a player, Nomura became a coach for the Carp. He was appointed manager of Hiroshima for 2010, succeeding Marty Brown. He was 322-371 in five seasons, but guided the team to progress, from 58 wins to 60 to 61 to 69 to 74, making the playoffs in 2013 and 2014. Despite the steady climb, he was removed as skipper following 2014, replaced by long-time teammate Ogata.

Main source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland