Tomoya Satozaki

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Tomoya Satozaki (里崎 智也) (Sato)

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Biographical information[edit]

In college, catcher Tomoya Satozaki set a Shuto League record when he homered in four consecutive games. Nominated to the Best Nine three times in college, he was drafted in the second round by the Chiba Lotte Marines in the 1998 NPB draft. He was 3 for 7 with two doubles for the Marines in 2000, but continued to play primarily in ni-gun until 2003. In 2001, Sato was MVP of a minor-league All-Star game. Playing semiregularly for the Marines in 2003, Tomoya hit .319/.393/.512, making his case very effectively with the stick. He then slumped all the way to .213/.281/.356 in 2004 and Tasuku Hashimoto took over as the main backstop. Satozaki was still selected to play in a competition against a touring American MLB All-Star team that fall. In 2005, Hashimoto and Satozaki split the Chiba Lotte catching role and Tomoya hit .303/.361/.481 with 52 RBI and 10 HR in 297 AB, though he struck out 74 times. While Hashimoto routinely hit at the bottom of the order when he was catching, Satozaki was regularly used in the heart of the lineup. Named to his first Pacific League All-Star team at age 30, Satozaki was 2 for 14 with a homer in the 2005 Japan Series, which Chiba Lotte won in four games. He was also picked to play in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, where he went 9 for 22 with a .409/.458/.591 line, six runs and 5 RBI in 8 games. He was named as the top catcher in the Classic tournament. Becoming the primary catcher for Chiba Lotte in 2006, Satozaki hit .264/.351/.463 and his 17 homers led the club. Often hitting 5th, he took over the cleanup role when Benny Agbayani sat.

In 2007, Satozaki was designated as Chiba Lotte's captain, the first person since Julio Franco in 1998 to occupy that role. Tomoya was the first Japanese captain of the Marines since Michiyo Arito in 1982. In July, Satozaki got into a fight with Tuffy Rhodes over a pitch that Rhodes felt was too close; Rhodes was ejected, suspended for a game and fined $100,000. Satozaki was 0 for 4 with a run for Japan in the 2007 Asian Championship as they won to clinch a spot in the 2008 Olympics. In the Olympics, Satozaki struggled, going 1 for 14 with 6 strikeouts as the backup to Shinnosuke Abe (who was not much better). Satozaki ended their 4-2 11-inning loss to Team USA; with two outs in the bottom of the 11th and the bases loaded, he pinch-hit for Abe but popped up against Casey Weathers.

Sources: by Gary Garland, World Baseball Classic website, IBAF site, 2008 Olympics