Akinori Iwamura: Wikis


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Akinori Iwamura
岩村 明憲
Akinori Iwamura.jpg
Pittsburgh Pirates — No. 3
Second baseman
Born: February 9, 1979 (1979-02-09) (age 30)
Uwajima, Ehime, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: May 19, 1998 for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
MLB: April 2, 2007 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
NPB statistics
Batting average     .300
Hits     1,073
Runs batted in     570
MLB statistics
(through 2009 season)
Batting average     .281
Hits     379
Runs batted in     104
Career highlights and awards
Medal record
Competitor for  Japan
Men’s Baseball
World Baseball Classic
Gold 2006 San Diego Team Competition
Gold 2009 Los Angeles Team Competition
Iwamura played for Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Akinori Iwamura (岩村 明憲) (born February 9, 1979) is a Major League Baseball infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Throughout the Rays organization, he is commonly referred to as "Aki," while in Japan, his nickname was "Gan-chan".

His brother, Takashi Iwamura, was also a professional baseball player who spent two seasons in the Kintetsu Buffaloes' farm system. The two were both drafted in 1997.


Japanese career

Iwamura was a third baseman for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Japanese Central League. He represented Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and was nicknamed "Japanese Lightning".

He played in the Central League from 1998 to 2006 and won six Golden Glove awards at third base. He also hit 106 home runs in his last three seasons in the Central League, including 32 (with a .311 batting average) in 2006. His best season was 2004, when he hit 44 home runs with 103 RBI and a .300 batting average. In that same season, he also set the Japanese baseball record for strikeouts with 173. [1]


Awards in Japan

  • Six-time Golden Glove winner (2000–2002, 2004-2006)
  • Three-time NPB All-Star (2001, 2004, 2005)
  • Two-time Best Nine (2002, 2006)
  • Monthly MVP (August 2004)
  • Japan Series Valuable Player (2001)

MLB career

During the 2006 offseason, Iwamura opted to be posted for Major League Baseball. The posts were due to the commissioner of Major League Baseball on November 10, 2006; the highest bidder would be granted the right to negotiate a contract with Iwamura. Incidentally, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed a six-year, $52 million contract with the Boston Red Sox that same year, is a close friend of Iwamura.

On November 14, information leaked that the highest bidder that won the right to negotiate with Iwamura was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Major League Baseball announced the next day that the Rays had made the winning bid; Newsday reported that the Rays had bid $4.5 million. Iwamura was the second player that the Rays had been able to obtain through the posting system; in 2005, they won the rights to negotiate with pitcher Shinji Mori.

On December 15, 2006, Iwamura signed a three-year contract with the Rays worth $7.7 million, with a club option for a fourth year at $4.25 million[2].

2007 season

With his defensive position still undecided, Iwamura brought gloves for five different positions to his first year of spring training in the major leagues. However, he eventually won the starting third base job, despite the competition, and began his major league career at his natural position for the Devil Rays. Iwamura did not hit well in spring training but seemed to adjust quickly to major league pitching once the 2007 season began, hitting .339 in April. However, he was hit in the eye on a freak play while chasing down a fly ball and spent time on the disabled list until May 28.

Iwamura's bat cooled off somewhat when he returned. He finished his rookie campaign with a .285 batting average, 7 home runs, 34 RBI and 82 runs scored while serving mostly as the Devil Rays' leadoff hitter.

Iwamura's glove is made out of crocodile skin, a rarity in the major leagues (although some players wear gloves made out of kangaroo hide). Likewise, his bat, made by the North American sportswear company Nike, also has quite a unique design.

Bat controversy

On September 1, 2007, in a game against the New York Yankees, Akinori Iwamura had his bat confiscated in the second inning. With two outs in the second and Iwamura at the plate facing a 2-2 count, Yankees manager Joe Torre stepped out from the dugout to speak to umpire-in-chief Kerwin Danley, who called in the rest of the crew for a conference. Maddon was then summoned from the dugout. When the discussion finished, Iwamura was told to hand his bat over to the umpiring crew. He then struck out swinging to end the inning. Although he went 0-for-4 that day in the Rays' 9-6 loss, he hit a home run the next day against the Yankees in an 8-2 Rays win. Afterwards, Iwamura said, "I was very surprised." [3]

According to Rays team spokesman Chris Costello, the Yankees questioned the flatness of the end of Iwamura's bat. The bat was sent to the commissioner's office for inspection, where it was found to be acceptable for use. It was later returned to Iwamura with Joe Torre's signature.

2008 season

"Aki" at bat during spring training at Progress Energy Park in March 2008

With Evan Longoria, a highly coveted third base prospect for the Rays, rising quickly through the team's minor league system, Iwamura was moved to second base for the beginning of the 2008 season. The transition went extremely well, as he and Jason Bartlett, a shortstop that the Rays had newly acquired from the Minnesota Twins, quickly became one of the best double play combinations in baseball, helping the Rays to their best season in franchise history.[4]

Again batting leadoff, Iwamura struggled at the plate in April, hitting just above .200 for much of the month. However, his batting improved significantly in May and June, when he was among the league leaders in hits. In Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Iwamura fielded Jed Lowrie's ground ball and stepped on 2nd base himself, making the last out and allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to advance to their first World Series in franchise history.

Incidents at second base

During a March 12, 2008 spring training game vs. the New York Yankees, New York Yankees first baseman Shelley Duncan injured Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura's right thigh while sliding into 2nd base with his spikes high off the ground. Due to this event, a brawl ensued. Two players (Jonny Gomes from Tampa Bay Rays and Shelley Duncan from New York Yankees) and two coaches (third base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Kevin Long from New York Yankees) were ejected.[5]

On June 5, there was a big fight between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park in Boston. In the second inning, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields threw a ball to Boston Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp who was at bat. The ball hit Coco's right hip and he got mad at Shields and went to the mound and a big fight ensued.[6] Due to this fighting, eight players from both Boston and Tampa Bay were ejected or suspended including Akinori Iwamura.[7] However, this fight was actually caused by an incident in the previous game. On June 4, when Coco Crisp tried to steal the second base, Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett tried to block Crisp with his knees. The collision caused an injury to Crisp's thumb. [8][9]

The "rayhawk"

Midway through the 2008 season, Iwamura got a mohawk haircut, a style which soon spread to many of his teammates and Rays' manager Joe Maddon. As the team went on to become American League Champions, many fans around the area also sported the "Rayhawk", which usually involved a wide and short patch of hair running from front to back atop an otherwise bald or closely-shorn head.[10][11]

2009 season

Iwamura at Fenway Park in September 2009

Iwamura was replaced at the top of the batting order by B. J. Upton but continued to have one of the best batting averages among American League 2nd basemen while batting lower in the order (usually in the 8th spot).

On May 22, Iwamura was injured while attempting to turn a double play against the Florida Marlins. After being slid into by Marlins infielder Chris Coghlan, Iwamura fell to the ground and eventually had to be carted off the field. Initial reports suggested this was a serious injury,[12] and the following day it was announced that Iwamura suffered a torn ACL that would require surgery, "involvement" on the MCL, in addition to torn ligaments in his ankle, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.[13] Iwamura undwerwent surgery one month later on June 22 to repair the injury, and it was discovered that the ACL was only partially torn, meaning that he did not require reconstructive surgery. Instead, an arthroscopic surgery was performed, and a report on the successful surgery stated that he could return to action in 6–8 weeks.[14]

After several minor league rehab appearances, Iwamura returned to the Rays' starting lineup on August 29 on the road against the Detroit Tigers, batting 9th in the batting order and playing his usual position of 2nd base. He made an immediate impact, scoring two runs in his first game back and hitting his first home run of the season the following day. [15][16]

Pittsburgh Pirates

Following the 2009 season, Iwamura was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Jesse Chavez.[17]

Personal life

On July 10, 2007, Iwamura's wife Misaki gave birth to their first son, Taiki.[18]


External links


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