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Ryoji Aikawa

From BR Bullpen

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Ryoji Aikawa (transliterated as Ryouji Aikawa) (相川 亮二)

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Ryoji Aikawa hit .390 in high school, being converted from the outfield to catcher his last year. In the 1994 NPB draft, he was picked in the fifth round by the Yokohama BayStars. He spent the next few years at ni-gun, not playing for Yokohama until '99, when he went 2 for 8 in eight games. In 2000 and 2001, Aikawa saw scant playing time for the BayStars, hitting .219/.266/.247 and .234/.235/.359; the latter season, he hit his first NPB homer off of high school teammate Hirotoshi Ishii. In 2002, Ryoji hit .224/.257/.276 as the primary backup to Takeshi Nakamura; he kept that role in 2003 and improved to .248/.294/.400 with 5 HR in 165 AB. In 2004, Aikawa became the starter and batted .263/.292/.401. He represented Japan in the 2004 Olympics as well that summer. The next year, the BayStars backstop caught in 144 of the team's 146 games (his hand swelled up at one point catching the 100-mph fastballs thrown by closer Marc Kroon) and hit .259/.316/.347 to finish the year with a career line of .250/.293/.351. He also was serving as the union representative for Yokohama by this time.

Aikawa played for Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, going 1 for 2 in his only game as the third-stringer behind Tomoya Satozaki and Motonobu Tanishige for the champs. His 2006 line was .245/.301/.340. He hit .302/.369/.353 in a resurgent 2007 to finish 8th in the Central League in batting average.

A free agent after 2008, he sought offers from the USA but did not win a contract with a MLB team. He instead signed with the Yakult Swallows for 450 million yen over 3 years. Aikawa hit .247/.286/.339 in 2009, and led the league with a 40 CS%. He also attended the 2009 NPB All-Star Game, but went 0-for-2. The Chiba native extended his solid performance, when he improved to .293/.340/.419 with a career-high 11 homers in 2010. He was selected for the 2010 NPB All-Star Games, but he went 0-for-2 again. Aikawa only had a .244/.300/.291 batting line in 2011 due to some injuries, but he still attended the 2011 NPB All-Star Game. He was 2-for-3 with a double off Masaru Takeda in Game 1, then collected a walk in Game 2. He was named the captain of the Swallows in 2012, but he fractured his rib and only played 72 games in that season.

Aikawa was on Japan's roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic; he was 1-for-3 with 2 walks in that tournament; he backed up Shinnosuke Abe behind the dish. He became the 27th player to hit a home run against all 12 teams on June 5, 2013; his 58 career homer were the least among the group at that time. The Chiba native ended up hitting .279/.319/.420 in 66 games in the 2013 season. He only batted .250/.288/.323 in 58 games in 2014 because young catcher Yuhei Nakamura took his spot.

He left the team and joined the Yomiuri Giants in 2015, and the Swallows selected Nobuyuki Okumura as the compensation. He was the first catcher to use the free agent system to change teams twice. He hit .313/.384/.505 as a backup catcher to Seiji Kobayashi in 2015, then slumped to .244/.333/.293 in 2016. The 41-year-old Aikawa became the oldest catcher to collect a walk-off hit on July 30 in the next season, but ended up hitting .158/.175/.184 in just 29 games. He announced his retirement after this season, and became a coach. He was the battery coach for the Giants from 2019 to 2020, and worked for the BayStars as the same position since 2022

Overall, Aikawa had hit .260/.309/.351 in 19 seasons in NPB.

His hobbies are fishing, going to concerts and weight training.

Sources[edit]