Statistics are a way journalists and fans can measure the greatness of athletes in sports, especially baseball. In the major leagues in both Japan and the United States, there are four prestigious statistical clubs that demonstrate a player’s greatness: the 3,000 hit and 300 home run clubs for batters and the 300 win and 3,000 strikeout clubs for pitchers.
In a series of articles, I will write stories on each Japanese player in these prestigious clubs. I want to focus on the distinguished players that played in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and highlight their contributions to the game. I am going to start this series by highlighting the NPB players in the 300 Home Run Club.
Starting off my series is former Tokyo Yakult Swallows shortstop and third baseman (and current coach of the Swallows) Takahiro Ikeyama.
Ikeyama is 40th on the all-time NPB 300 Home Run Club list with 304 career home runs. He is a favorite of Swallows fans. He was a heavy-hitting slugger that played his entire 19 year career with the Swallows. He had a career .262 batting average with 304 home runs and 1,521 career hits. Ikeyama is currently 7th all time in the NPB for short stops in home runs.
He was a dominant player on both sides of the field. Ikeyama won a Pacific League Golden Glove Award in 1992. Ikeyama was named to the NPB All Star game seven times and was a five time winner of the Pacific League Best Nine Award. This award is given to the best player at each position in NPB.
Ikeyama is a great leader and a champion. He helped lead the Swallows to three Japan Series in 1992, ‘93 and ‘95. The Seibu Lions defeated Yakult 4-3 in the 1992 Japan Series. In 1993, Ikeyama helped the Swallows avenge their loss to the Lions in seven games. He hit a home run to help lead Swallows in a 8-5 victory in Game 1 of the series. He also was pivotal in their 1995 Japan Series win over the Orix Blue Wave in five games, when hit a key home run in Game 3 to helped lead Yakult to a 7-4 victory in 10 innings.
After retiring in 2002, Ikeyama became a respected coach in NPB. He was on the staff of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2006-09 and 2016-18. He returned to the Swallows as a coach for a stint from 2011-15 and then joined the Swallows again in 2020.
Ikeyama has made a strong impact on NPB as a player and a coach. He was one of the first infielders to show tremendous offensive power in the league. He was a clutch player with two key home runs in the 1993 and 1995 Japan Series. Ikeyama was a perennial all-star as a player and shows promise to have the same success as a coach in the NPB.
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