Satoshi Nakajima

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Satoshi Nakajima (中嶋 聡)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Satoshi Nakajima caught in Nippon Pro Baseball for 29 years then became a manager. He was picked as an All-Star six times.


Nakajima was picked by the Hankyu Braves in the third round of the 1986 NPB draft. He struck out in both of his at-bats in 1987. In 1988, the 19-year-old hit just .178/.204/.296 in 145 plate appearances over 74 games. On April 30, he got his first hit, off Tokinari Nishina. On June 22, he took Shigekazu Mori deep for his first home run. His other homer that year was a historic one, the last in Hankyu history, a 3-run shot on October 23. Nakajima would later be the last Hankyu Brave to still be playing in NPB.

Hankyu was sold and became the Orix Braves in 1989 and Nakajima became a starter, hitting .234/.313/.322. He won the Gold Glove at catcher in the Pacific League, his only time so honored, and also made his first All-Star team. When Atsuya Furuta became draft-eligible that winter, he said that he did not want to be picked by Orix, since he felt he could not compete with Nakajima defensively. In 1990, he improved to .283/.365/.469 with 12 home runs in 286 at-bats. He was again an All-Star. On September 20, he made a barehand catch of a slow curve by Nobuyuki Hoshino, then threw back hard to Hoshino, causing both teams' benches to explode in laughter. Hoshino got mad at Nakajima over being shown up, but the catcher would repeat the act in practice sessions in the future.

Nakajima (right) wears #27 with the Ham Fighters, July 2012.

The Akita native made his third All-Star team in 1991. He set career highs in at-bats (430), hits (109), doubles (22), homers (12, tied), runs (49) and RBI (48). He hit .249/.332/.339 for Orix in 1992 and led the PL with 8 times hit by pitch. He batted only .149/.241/.169 in a back-up role in 1993 then .319/.371/.511 in 37 games in 1994.

Nakajima was a starter again in 1995 and put up a .267/.337/.347 line. He made his fourth All-Star team and was picked for his only Best Nine as his circuit's top backstop. He was 2 for 11 with two walks in the 1995 Japan Series, as Orix fell to Furuta's Yakult Swallows. In 1996, Satoshi's batting line read .222/.275/.265 and he made his fifth and penultimate All-Star squad. Backing up Makoto Takada, Nakajima was 0 for 4 in the 1996 Japan Series, in which Orix won its only title (through 2010). He hit .219/.290/.290 in 73 games as a backup in 1997. That winter, the free agent tried to draw interest from a MLB club, but none stepped forward.


Signing with the Seibu Lions, he hit .236/.314/.349 in 60 games, splitting catcher with Tsutomu Itoh and Kazuhiro Wada in 1998. After two regular-season homers, he added one in the 1998 Japan Series, in which he was 3 for 12. His four RBI tied Kazuo Matsui for the Seibu team lead, but the Lions fell to the Yokohama BayStars. In 1999, he was the personal catcher for Seibu's hot rookie commodity, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Nakajima made his 6th All-Star team but finished at just .194/.282/.219 in 72 games.

In 2000, the right-hander hit .236/.304/.302 in 78 games. In a neutral site game at Nagano Olympic Stadium, he took Terry Bross deep for the first regular-season homer at that ballpark. He put up a .203/.281/.276 line in a backup role in 2001 and only .162/.244/.216 in 49 games in 2002. In the 2002 Japan Series, he was 0 for 1 with a walk as Itoh's sub.


Nakajima was then dealt to Yokohama with Hisaki Tomioka for Kazushi Hoashi and Yoshihito Ishii. The veteran went 12 for 56 with a double and two walks in 2003.

Nippon Ham[edit]

Nakajima next signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He hit .197/.217/.242 in 72 plate appearances in 2004 and .187/.218/.288 in 186 plate appearances in 2005. He was 6 for 29 with two doubles as a defensive sub to Shinya Tsuruoka (79 games, 29 at-bats) in 2006. He went 1 for 2 with a hit-by-pitch in the 2006 Japan Series, becoming the first catcher to get hits for three different teams in a Japan Series.

Nakajima became a player-coach and was 1 for 15 in 60 games in 2007, his 21st season. Satoshi went 3 for 4 in 22 games in 2008 then 1 for 3 in 2009, when he turned 40. In 2010, he was 0 for 1 in 7 games behind Tsuruoka and Shota Ono. He played ten games but did not bat in 2011, three games without batting in 2012, was 0 for 2 in 2013, played one game in 2014 and his final two games in 2015. He did not have the longest NPB career as Masahiro Yamamoto played longer, and more of that time as an active player as Nakajima's last years were brief appearances while primarily coaching.

Career statistics[edit]

Overall, after 29 years, Nakajima hit .231/.294/.323 in 1,554 NPB games.

Scouting, coaching and managing[edit]

In 2016, he went to work in the US, scouting foreign players for the Fighters and working with the San Diego Padres as well. He returned to coach for the Fighters in 2018 then became minor league manager for the Orix Buffaloes (successor to the Orix Braves) in 2019. He became interim manager of the Buffaloes in August 2020. In 2021, as full-time manager, he took them worst-to-first though they lost the 2021 Japan Series to the Yakult Swallows. He guided them to a 2022 Japan Series title and won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award.

Related Sites[edit]

Primary Source: Defunct Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland