Masanori Sugiura

From BR Bullpen

Masanori Sugiura (杉浦 正則)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 181 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Masanori Sugiura pitched in multiple international events for the Japanese national team, including three Olympics. He was one of the most successful amateur pitchers of the 1990s. He never played pro baseball, spending his entire career with the Nippon Life Insurance club in the industrial leagues.

He was with Japan when they finished third in the 1990 Asian Games (baseball was not yet a medal sport in the Asian Games). He played in the 1991 Asian Championship, helping lead the Japanese team to a Gold medal and a berth in the 1992 Olympics. For his work in the 1991 Asian Championship, he was named one of the best two pitchers, along with Chien-Fu Kuo Lee. In the 1992 Olympics, he helped lead his team to a Bronze medal. He was 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in the event, allowing only 7 hits in 50 at-bats while striking out 16 in 15 2/3 innings. Sugiura tied Jeff Alkire, Giorge Diaz, Osvaldo Fernandez, Chao-Huang Lin and Tomohito Ito for second in the Barcelona Games in wins, one behind Chien-Fu Kuo Lee. In the preliminary round, he threw 4 2/3 shutout innings of relief to beat Team USA; among the bats he stifled were Jeffrey Hammonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Phil Nevin, Charles Johnson, Jason Varitek, Calvin Murray, Michael Tucker, Jason Giambi and Chris Wimmer. In the semifinals, he took a tough loss to Taiwan, allowing three runs in five innings while Kuo Lee tossed a gem. Sugiura was back on the hill in the Bronze Medal game, again blanking the American team of Murray, Giambi, Hammonds, Tucker, Nevin, Varitek, Garciaparra and Wimmer for 4 2/3 innings.

Masanori helped Japan to Gold in the 1993 Asian Championship. He was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, striking out 23 in 13 1/3 innings. He finished fifth in strikeouts behind Jae-woong Shin, Young-pil Choi, Lazaro Valle and Omar Ajete. His run of success against Team USA ended in the semifinal when he gave up a grand slam to Todd Walker in the first inning. He recovered but John Powell had all the support he needed to win. Japan wound up with a Bronze.

In 1994, Sugiura played in the Baseball World Cup. He went 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA, striking out 32 batters in 26 1/3 innings and leading the tournament's pitchers in wins and strikeouts and was 4th in ERA behind three pitchers at 0.00. He held opponents to 16 hits and four walks. As a result of his fine performance, he was named to the tournament All-Star team. Tomoaki Sato was the only other Japanese player honored. The other All-Star pitcher was Marcelino Santana. In the Bronze Medal game, he held Nicaragua to one run in a complete game, 11-strikeout effort to give Japan the win. He helped Japan win Gold in the 1994 Asian Games.

Sugiura played in the 1995 Asian Championship, in which the Japanese team won a Gold medal. He himself was named the best right-handed pitcher. The Japanese won a spot in the 1996 Olympics. He also played in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup and was 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 17 2.3 innings. He was third in strikeouts behind Omar Luis and Young-soo Kim. He was named an All-Star pitcher, along with Omar Luis. Japan again won a Bronze Medal.

Remaining with Japan for the 1996 Olympics, the veteran right-hander went 2-0 but had a 8.44 ERA, second-highest on Japan. He beat South Korea in the round-robin. Starting for Japan in the semifinal against the USA, he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings to beat Kris Benson. Among the hitters he faced were Mark Kotsay, Jacque Jones, Matt LeCroy, Travis Lee, Troy Glaus, A.J. Hinch, Warren Morris and Chad Allen. On just a day rest, he was called on to face the Cuban national team in the Gold Medal game against Luis. He came out flat, giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings before getting yanked in favor of Jutaro Kimura. Japan rallied but lost, 13-9, to settle for a Silver Medal.

In 1997, Sugiura was honored as the top pitcher in the Japanese industrial leagues, the only time he took home that honor. He was 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, whiffing sixteen in twelve innings of work. Japan won its first Gold Medal ever in the event, beating Cuba 11-2 in the finale as Koji Uehara and Hitoshi Miyata did the hurling. Sugiura had beaten Jeff Williams and Australia in the semifinals to set up the Gold. That year, Bobby Valentine expressed interest in signing Sugiura for the New York Mets but the two-time Olympian turned down the offer.

In the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, Sugiura went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, finishing tied for second in wins with Hiroki Kuroda, Ciro Licea, Adrian Meagher, Chung-Nan Tsai, Steve Falteisek and Faustino Corrales, one behind Shayne Bennett. Japan won a Bronze Medal.

He played in the 2000 Olympics, being named captain of the Japanese team. They did not win a medal that year. He allowed one run in four innings in a minor role and got the win over South Africa.

Though he received offers to do so, Sugiura never played professionally. He retired in 2000 with his five career Olympic wins being the most all-time, one ahead of Pedro Luis Lazo. He shared the record of three Olympic performances by a baseball player until Lazo and Rob Cordemans appeared in their fourth in 2008. Through 2004, Masanori was third in Olympic strikeouts with 32, behind Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jose Contreras. From 1991-2006, Sugiura led the Intercontinental Cup with five wins and 68 strikeouts (17 ahead of runner-up Ajete).

Sugiura later was a coach in the industrial leagues and coached for Japan in the 2015 Asian Championship (Bronze Medal) and 2017 Asian Championship (Gold).

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