Kaoru Okazaki (岡崎 郁)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 171 lb.
- High School Oita Shogyo High School
Okazaki was a third-round pick by Yomiuri in the 1979 NPB draft out of high school. He played one game in 1982 without batting then went 0 for 1 in 1983. After several years in the minors, he finally came up for good in 1985, hitting .268/.362/.384 in 96 games. Okazaki batted .295/.333/.416 in 92 games in 1986.
Kaoru hit .249/.314/.306 in 1987. In the 1987 Japan Series, he was 4 for 12 with a double as the light-hitting shortstop outperformed many of Yomiuri's bigger names like Warren Cromartie and Tatsunori Hara.
In 1988, Okazaki batted .278/.342/.396 and stole 9 bases in 10 tries. He batted .268/.335/.405 with 12 homers in 1989 and made the Central League All-Star team for the first time. In the 1989 Japan Series, the Oita native hit .250/.345/.542 with two home runs and 6 RBI in 7 games as Yomiuri won. The third baseman tied Hara for the team lead in homers, but Norihiro Komada won Series MVP honors instead.
Okazaki produced at a .289/.361/.441 rate with six triples in 1990 and again was an All-Star. He won the Gold Glove Award at third base that season. In the 1990 Japan Series, the veteran hit .417/.533/.750 and won the Fighting Spirit Award as the top performer on the losing club, as Yomiuri was swept by the Seibu Lions; Okazaki outperformed Cromartie and Hara by a wide margin this time.
In 1991, Okazaki hit .258/.329/.333 and made his third All-Star squad. He batted .252/.320/.390 with 12 home runs in 1992 and was chosen as an All-Star for the last time. That winter, he began a one-year stint as chairman of the board of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association.
Okazaki's production fell to a .212/.279/.285 rate in 1993. He bounced back to hit .257/.320/.358 in 1994, when he was Yomiuri's most-used third baseman, edging out Hara, Daisuke Motoki and Kazushige Nagashima. He also saw significant time at second base and a little action at first. He hit .278/.364/.389 in the 1994 Japan Series as he won a second title.
Okazaki only batted .206/.277/.288 in 84 games in 1995; he was Yomiuri's main starter at second base, beating out Motoki and several others. Okazaki only played 12 games in 1996, going 1 for 11 with two walks and a homer. Overall, he hit .260/.327/.371 in 1,156 games in NPB.
Primary Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland