Koichi Hori (堀 幸一)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 176 lb.
- High School Kaisei High School
Koichi Hori played 21 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, all for the same organization. Primarily a second base, he saw action at all four infield spots and the outfield. He also moved around the batting order, homering from all nine lineup slots. A reliable player, he was rarely a stellar one, making only two All-Star teams.
Hori was a third-round pick of the Lotte Orions in 1987. He backed up Seiji Kamikawa at second base as a rookie ion 1989 and hit .260/.313/.377 in 86 plate appearances over 58 games. On April 26, he hit his first NPB homer, off Nobuyuki Hoshino. In 1990, Hori batted .270/.331/.508 with 6 home runs in 126 AB and had a streak of eight straight plate appearances in which he reached base. He backed up Kamikawa at 2B and long-time teammate Kiyoshi Hatsushiba at third base. In 1991, he became the Orions' starting second sacker and produced at a .284/.336/.489 clip with 20 dingers. He fielded .991 at 2B. He was 10th in the Pacific League with 69 RBI and 8th in average (between Hisashi Ono and Ken Hirano). It would be 12 years before he reached 20 home runs again, though.
Hori hit .281/.351/.416 in 1992. He slumped to .247/.326/.365 in 1993 though he did steal 18 bases in 24 tries, fielded .988 and hit 28 doubles. He tied Norifumi Nishimura for second in the PL in triples (6), was 6th in doubles and tied Takashi Yoshida for 9th in steals. He continued to post a poor OPS in 1994 (.236/.291/.380) while his fielding percentage fell to .967.
When Bobby Valentine became the team (now the Chiba Lotte Marines) manager in 1995, Hori was moved to shortstop (over the objections of general manager Tatsuro Hirooka and coach Shozo Eto, both of whom questioned Hori's range) and put his game back together for a strong season - .309/.373/.438, 71 runs, 16 steals in 19 tries. He won Player of the Month honors in June. He was second in the PL in average (33 points behind Ichiro Suzuki), fourth in OBP (trailing Suzuki, Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Julio Franco), first with 7 sacrifice flies and 5th in runs. He made his first All-Star team but lost out Best Nine honors to power-hitting Yukio Tanaka. Hori credited his success to his new manager's faith in him and said that Valentine had "taught me how to enjoy the game."
In 1996, Hori produced at a .312/.384/.488 rate with 28 doubles, 16 home runs, 70 runs and 68 RBI. He fielded .967 at shortstop and made his second All-Star team, but again lost the Best Best Nine to Tanaka. He finished among the league leaders in average (3rd, behind Suzuki and Atsushi Kataoka), OBP (5th, trailing Suzuki, Kataoka, Koichiro Yoshinaga and Troy Neel), hits (145, 3rd, behind Suzuki and Tuffy Rhodes) and doubles (4th, trailing Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Rhodes and Tanaka). He also led all PL players with 16 errors, though, in his last season as a starting SS.
Hori hit .272/.335/.366 with 15 steals in 21 tries as a 2B-3B in 1997, with the young Makoto Kosaka emerging at short. The next year, he slumped to .241/.303/.381; that year, he played center field primarily, replacing Kenji Morozumi, while Franco and Naoki Matsumoto split 2B. In 1999, the veteran hit .266/.353/.404 with 28 doubles while returning to second base with Franco gone and Morozumi back in center.
The Nagasaki native's batting line in 2000 was .256/.329/.429 as he split time with Tadaharu Sakai at second. On May 20, he hit a pinch-hit grand slam. With Sakai starting in 2001, Hori was used as a backup outfielder and batted .223/.318/.321. He was back starting at second by 2002, though, and hit .253/.319/.426 with 14 homers at age 33. He batted .298/.372/.489 with a career-high 22 home runs, 78 runs and 78 RBI in 2003, failing to make the top 10 in any offensive category except sacrifice flies in a hitter-friendly year. He had his 150th homer, taking Jun Hagiwara deep on October 8.
Hori fielded .992 and batted .261/.343/.416 with 14 home runs and 70 runs in 2004. On June 26, he got his 1,500th hit, a single off Ming-Chieh Hsu, the 51st player to reach that figure. He also became the 41st NPB player to 300 doubles, getting #300 off Tsuyoshi Wada in the fall. In 2005, he reached .300 for the first time in 9 years, hitting .305/.357/.403 for his old skipper Valentine (who had returned in 2004). Batting second for the PL champions, he got his only Best Nine nod, picked as the league's top second sacker. In his only Japan Series, he went 2 for 5 with a double and two runs splitting time with Hisao Heiuchi as Chiba Lotte won the 2005 Japan Series in a sweep of the Hanshin Tigers.
Koichi slumped in 2006 (.227/.270/.348), though he remained the principal 2B for the Marines. 2007 saw him lose playing time to Jose Ortiz and he hit .253/.296/.387 in a part-time role. Hori only played 41 games in 2008 and failed to go deep, ending a Lotte franchise record of 19 consecutive seasons with a home run; his batting line for the season was just .204/.216/.237, backing up Ortiz primarily. He became the 40th NPB player to appear in 2,000 games. Hori ended his long playing career in 2009, hitting .259/.294/.429 in 56 games and .417 as a pinch-hitter; in the field, he was now mostly a first baseman, backing up Kazuya Fukuura. By this time, he was the last member of the Lotte Orions to still be with Chiba Lotte.
Overall, Hori had hit .269/.336/.416 in 7,680 plate appearances over 2,064 NPB games. He had 351 doubles, 37 triples, 183 home runs, 133 steals in 192 tries, 929 runs, 810 RBI, 676 walks and 1,295 strikeouts. Through 2011, he was among the NPB career leaders in games played (34th, between Hiromasa Arai and Michiyo Arito), at-bats (49th with 6,788, between Tsutomu Wakamatsu and Tatsuhiko Kimata), runs (50th, between Tatsunori Hara and Tomonori Maeda), hits (tied for 56th with Noboru Aota), doubles (33rd, between Motonobu Tanishige and Maeda), triples (tied for 93rd), RBI (79th, between Tsutomu Itoh and Jitsuo Mizutani), sacrifice flies (32nd with 58), walks (60th, between Kenichi Yazawa and Alex Cabrera), strikeouts (19th, between Atsunori Inaba and Hiroyuki Yamazaki), total bases (62nd with 2,801, between Jinten Haku and Akitoshi Kodama), plate appearances (46th with 7,702, between Daijiro Oishi and Yazawa) and extra-base hits (62nd with 571, between Hiromichi Ishige and Kimata).
After his playing career ended, he worked briefly as a baseball commentator on TV before returning to the Marines as a coach for the 2013 season.