Yasuhiro Ichiba

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Yasuhiro Ichiba

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Biographical Information[edit]

The center of one of the most sweeping scandals in Nippon Pro Baseball history. A righty pitcher who topped out at 96 mph, Yasuhiro Ichiba was in much demand for the 2005 season. Three owners were forced to resign after it came out that they had bribed Ichiba to join their clubs - Tsuneo Watanabe of the Yomiuri Giants was the first to fall (with a 2 million yen bribe, far more than the poorer clubs), followed by Hanshin Tigers owner Shinjiro Kuma and Yokohama Bay Stars boss Yukio Sunahara. When one player is responsible for the ouster of half a league's owners before they play a game, that's something historic. Ichiba also became the center of scandal when he impregnated his girlfriend before marrying her.

Ichiba dropped off Meiji's team after the scandal broke and said he would return all the money. After wreaking havoc on the Central League, Ichiba finally wound up with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, an expansion team that wasn't even around when all the shenanigans had been taking place.

Prior to the scandal, Ichiba had started the finale of the 2004 World University Championship for Japan but lost a 4-2 battle to Luke Hochevar and the US.

Considering what had come before, his rookie year was a bust. He was 2-9 with a 5.56 ERA and was forced into the bullpen at one point but made some strides late in the season. He had begun the year 0-7 (a Pacific League record at the start of a career) - he then matched up with 15-4 Fumiya Nishiguchi in a historical contest on August 27. Ichiba allowed 5 hits and no runs in 9 but that wasn't enough to win, as Nishiguchi was throwing a perfect game. In the 10th the Eagles finally got a couple baserunners but a reliever lost the game for Rakuten in the bottom of the 10th as Ichiba only got a no-decision.

Ichiba improved to 7-14, 4.37 in 2006. Rakuten assigned him to play in the Hawaii Winter League, where he was one of the more prominent Japanese prospects to appear. He had a 2.25 ERA in his lone start and fanned six, walking none, before being sidelined by shoulder pain and returning to Japan.

He struggled in 2007, going 6-2 with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games. He was even worse in 2008, with a 0-3, 9.77 record in 8 outings. He allowed a .358 opponent average and had a 2.23 WHIP.

Ichiba was traded to the Yakult Swallows for Ryuji Miyade in March 2009.

Sources: Japanese Baseball