Masaaki Koike (小池 正晃)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 176 lb.
- High School Yokohama High School
Masaaki Koike has spent over a decade in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Koike was a high school teammate of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Masaaki hit 26 homers in high school. He and Matsuzaka helped Yokohama win both Koshien Tournaments in 1998. His hometown Yokohama BayStars picked him in the 6th round of the 1998 draft. He made his debut with the big club on April 20, 2001, getting a pinch-hit single off Hideki Okajima. Koike was 7 for 24 with a double and 3 walks in 19 games that year.
As a backup corner outfielder and third baseman in 2002, Koike hit .257/.268/.349 with 2 walks to 31 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances. He hit his first NPB homer, a pinch-hit shot off Rigo Beltran on May 23. He was 3 for 10 with a double in 2003 and 5 for 14 with 2 doubles, 2 homers and 2 walks in 2004. In 2005, Koike became a regular. With Tyrone Woods leaving as a free agent, Takahiro Saeki moved from left field to 1B and Koike became the starter in left. Occasionally, he moved to center in place of Hitoshi Tamura and Seiichi Uchikawa filled in in left field. Koike belted 20 home runs but his overall numbers weren't great - .243/.316/.431. On June 1, he hit the 6,000 homer in franchise history, taking Hiroki Yamamura deep. He laid down a Central League-high 37 sacrifice hits, unusual for a 20-homer man, and tied Akinori Iwamura for 9th in the CL with five sacrifice flies.
Koike put up a .267/.310/.403 line in 2006, replacing an injured Tamura as the main center fielder. He led the CL with 39 sacrifice hits. He also tied Norichika Aoki and Yoshinobu Takahashi for 5th in the league with 8 times hit by pitch. He backed up Takanori Suzuki in left field in 2007 and fell to .232/.289/.348.
He began 2008 with the BayStars before being traded to the Chunichi Dragons for Yuya Ishii. He hit .227/.290/.369 in 59 games for the year. He batted .230/.285/.385 in 201 plate appearances over 101 games in 2009 then slumped to .202/.280/.286 in 99 plate appearances and 54 games in 2010. He was 1 for 4 in the 2010 Japan Series, as Chunichi lost to the Chiba Lotte Marines.
In 2011, he was one of Chunichi's top producers, though still in his backup role (.268/.345/.465 in 150 PA). In game one of the 2011 Japan Series, he started in left field in place of Kazuhiro Wada (who was at DH in a game played in a Pacific League park and thus using the DH). With two outs in the 10th, he homered off Masahiro Tanaka to win it. He started game 5 of the Series in right field, but injured his elbow crashing into the wall while catching a Nobuhiro Matsuda fly.