Yoshinori Okihara (Okki) (沖原 佳典)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 176 lb.
Yoshinori Okihara was an Olympic infielder who played eight seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Okihara won one batting title in college. After graduating, he played for NTT Higashi Nihon in the industrial leagues. He joined the Japanese national team for the 1999 Intercontinental Cup and hit .355/.375/.613 with 8 runs and 7 RBI in 8 games at shortstop; Danel Castro beat him out as the All-Star shortstop. Japan won the Bronze Medal. Okihara also appeared in the 1999 Asian Championship.
In the 2000 Olympics, Okihara batted .314/.351/.543 and fielded flawlessly at short. Batting leadoff in the Bronze Medal game, he went 1 for 4 against Dae-sung Koo in a 3-1 loss. The Hanshin Tigers took him in the 6th round that winter, but Okihara had to convince his wife to let him play professionally; she eventually relented.
Okihara struggled as a rookie. He got his first hit off Koji Uehara during his March 30 debut. On April 1, he homered off Masaki Saito. He broke his left hand later in the month, though, and finished with a .197/.273/.298 batting line in 71 games. Yoshinori hit .248/.266/.364 in 63 games in 2002 while splitting the shortstop job with Shuta Tanaka and Atsushi Fujimoto. In 2003, Okihara put up a .341/.379/.431 line in 137 plate appearances, backing up Atsushi Kataoka at third, Fujimoto at short and Makoto Imaoka at second. He did not appear in the 2003 Japan Series, which Hanshin lost to the Daiei Hawks in seven games. Okihara was just 6 for 24 with a walk and a double in 2004.
In 2005, the veteran infielder was dealt to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for Tadatoki Maeda. He hit .313/.342/.381 in 67 games that year, taking over the starting shortstop job from Tadaharu Sakai as the year went on. Okihara slumped to .204/.236/.247 in 60 games in 2006 and saw scant action in 2007 (3 for 18, 2B) and 2008 (8 for 33, 2B, BB).
Overall, the Ehime native played 366 games in NPB, batting .256/.296/.332. He later coached for Rakuten and scouted for them, signing Kazuki Tanaka.