Yasuyuki Saigo (西郷泰之)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
Yasuyuki Saigo has never played a game in Nippon Pro Baseball but has been a long-time star in the Japanese industrial leagues and has played for the Japanese national team in over a dozen events, including the Olympics. In the industrial leagues, Saigo has played for Mitsubishi and Toshiba, winning 8 Best Nine honors (7 at first base, 1 in the outfield) through 2007.
The left-handed hitter made his national team debut in the 1995 Asian Championship, winning Gold. He next appeared in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup (12 for 24, 7 BB, 4 2B, 7 RBI). He tied for second in average, trailing only Jeffrey Cranston and joined Rey Isaac and Jose Estrada on the All-Tournament outfield. He was also in the Asian Championship that year. He was with Japan for the 1996 Olympics, hitting .481/.605/.741 with 12 runs and 9 walks in 9 games. He was third in the Games in average behind Luigi Carrozza and Luis Ulacia, .05 ahead of legendary Omar Linares. He was 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 runs and a RBI in Japan's 13-9 Gold Medal game loss to the Cuban national team; it was the highest Japan has finished in the Olympics (through 2008).
Saigo again was a star performer in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, when he produced at a .406/.500/.750 rate with 8 runs and 9 RBI in 9 games. Orestes Kindelan but him out for All-Tourney honors at first base. Saigo just missed the top 5 in both average (.008 shy of #5) and RBI (one behind Eric Munson). In the Gold Medal game, Saigo was 3 for 5 with a double, 2 runs and a RBI as Japan stunned Cuba in a 11-2 rout; among the pitchers Cuba tried were Jose Contreras and Pedro Luis Lazo. He also played in the 1997 Asian Championship, winning Silver.
The Tokyo native did not appear for the national team again until the 2001 Baseball World Cup, when he was 2 for 8 with a triple as a backup at first base. In the 2003 Baseball World Cup, Saigo batted .379/.514/.517 with 8 runs in 9 games. He lost All-Tournament honors at first base to AAA veteran Sharnol Adriana.
Yasuyuki was with Japan for the 2005 Asian Championship. In the 2005 Baseball World Cup, the veteran hit .387/.457/.645 with 9 RBI in 10 games. He drove in 4 in a 7-6 win over Team USA. He appeared in both the 2006 Asian Games and 2006 Intercontinental Cup. In the latter event, Saigo batted .273/.333/.424.
At age 35, Saigo starred in the 2007 Baseball World Cup. He hit .391/.611/.696 with 10 walks and 10 RBI to help Japan win Bronze. He made the tourney All-Star team at first base.