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Kazuhiro Kiyohara

 

Kazuhiro Kiyohara

Kazuhiro Kiyohara (清原 和博 Kiyohara Kazuhiro?, born August 18, 1967 in Kishiwada, Osaka) is a former professional baseball player in Japan, having played in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league for 23 seasons. He retired following the 2008 season.

Biography

Kazuhiro Kiyohara became a household name in Japan as a home run hitter for the Osaka PL Gakuen high school baseball team in the mid-1980s.[1] His team won two Japan High School baseball championships, finished second twice, and was fourth on one occasion. (There are spring and summer national high school baseball tournaments annually in Japan, held at the famous Koshien Stadium.)

Kiyohara was one part of a dominant duo on his high school team with his teammate, pitcher Masumi Kuwata. They became known in the popular vernacular of the time as the "K-K Combi", which stood for the Kiyohara and Kuwata combination. They were widely respected as high school players, and their individual and team accomplishments became memorable parts of the history of schoolboy baseball in Japan.

Kiyohara was selected by the Seibu Lions with their first pick of the 1985 draft. This was reportedly a huge disappointment for him because the Yomiuri Giants, the most popular NPB team of the day, had promised to choose him in the draft. However, the Giants decided to take Masumi Kuwata with their initial pick in '85, instead of Kiyohara, which made for great theater in the Japanese mass media at the time.[2]

His rookie season with the Seibu Lions produced a .304 average with 31 Home Runs and 78 RBIs. He tied the rookie HR record for Japanese professional baseball, and all three previously mentioned statistics were the best totals for a rookie in his first professional season out of high school. He became a top cleanup hitter for the Lions in his eleven seasons with the club, accumulating 332 HRs and 915 RBIs. During his time in a Lions uniform, the team won six Japan Series titles.

Kiyohara qualified for free agency after the 1996 season and signed with the Yomiuri Giants, fulfilling a childhood dream. With the Giants, Kiyohara had some outstanding seasons playing alongside many star players, including future major leaguer Hideki Matsui. Kiyohara suited up for the Giants through the 2005 season(one in which he collected his 500th home run and 2,000th hit), and was an integral part of their 2000 and 2002 Japan Series championship squads.[3]

An aging Kiyohara moved from the Giants to the Orix Buffaloes for the final three seasons of his career, calling it quits at the end of the 2008 campaign. He appeared in only 89 games for the Buffaloes, citing various physical ailments for his inactivity.

Despite his many accomplishments, Kiyohara could not escape heavy criticism during the final ten seasons of his career due to a long list of injuries that forced him to miss considerable chunks of almost every season. From 1999-2008, he played in 100 or more games only twice (2001 and 2003), while being paid the equivalent of multi-million dollar salaries each year.[4][5]

The Uncrowned King

Kiyohara is often referred as "The Uncrowned King" because he never won a major batting title, even though he was one of NPB's greatest hitters. He surpassed 2,000 hits, 500 home runs, and 1,500 RBIs, which has been accomplished by only five other legendary players (Sadaharu Oh, Katsuya Nomura, Hiromitsu Kadota, Isao Harimoto and Hiromitsu Ochiai).

Career Record

  • .272 Batting Average
  • 2,118 Hits (22nd)
  • 525 Home runs (5th)
  • 1,530 RBIs (6th)
  • 1,280 Runs (9th)
  • 1,346 Ball on bases(3rd)
  • 1,955 Strikeouts (1st)
  • 196 Hit by pitch (1st)

Trivia

  • He holds the national record of 20 walk-off hits, 12 walk-off home runs, and 2 walk-off grand slam home runs.
  • He holds many home run records in Koshien Baseball tournament.

References

External links

  • Nippon Professional Baseball career statistics from Japanesebaseball.com
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