Norihiro Komada (Grand Slam Man/Manrui Otoko)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 191 lb.
- High School Sakurai Shogyo High School
Komada hit .490 with 43 homers in high school and was once intentionally walked with the bases loaded. Despite that, the Yomiuri Giants drafted him in 1980 as a pitcher. He was a position player by the time he reached NPB, though.
Norihiro debuted with Yomiuri on April 10, 1983, in historic fashion. He hit a grand slam in his first at-bat with the club, the first player in NPB annals to debut with such a hit. He finished the year with a .286/.337/.533 batting line in 86 games, going deep in 12 of 182 at-bats and driving in 47 as a great bench threat, backing up Hector Cruz, Reggie Smith and Tadashi Matsumoto in the outfield. He went 1 for 6 in the 1983 Japan Series, which Yomiuri dropped in seven games to the Seibu Lions.
In 1984, Komada fell to .238/.297/.369 in 91 plate appearances over 79 games, with just two homers. He hit .252/.324/.371 as a backup in 1985 and .257/.350/.406 in a similar role in 1986. He had cracked more homers as a rookie than in his next three seasons combined.
Joining Warren Cromartie and Sadaaki Yoshimura in Yomiuri's starting outfield in 1987, Komada batted .287/.344/.450 with 15 home runs. He homered in game one of the 1987 Japan Series and hit .273/.304/.455 overall in the Series, but Yomiuri again lost to Seibu.
In 1988, Norihiro had a batting line of .307/.362/.468. He finished 4th in the Central League in average behind Kozo Shoda, Jim Paciorek and Kazunori Shinozuka. He hit .303/.367/.472 in 1989, finishing 8th in the CL in average, just ahead of Cecil Fielder. He also smacked 31 doubles. Now a first baseman, he won the first of many Gold Gloves there. In the 1989 Japan Series, the 27-year-old hit .522/.615/.783 with 3 doubles, a game seven home run and 5 RBI in 7 games to help Yomiuri take the title. He was named the Japan Series MVP that year.
The Nara native produced at a .287/.356/.498 rate with 22 home runs and 83 RBI in 1990 and won another Gold Glove. He also made his first CL All-Star squad. He was 2 for 14 with a walk and five strikeouts in the 1990 Japan Series, as Yomiuri got swept by Seibu. In 1991, Komada batted .314/.369/.478 with 19 homers. He finished sixth in the loop in average, in between import players R.J. Reynolds and Paciorek. He won his third straight Gold Glove and made his second straight All-Star team. One negative was 16 double play grounders, most in the CL.
Komada had his best long ball campaign in 1992, launching 27 of them while batting .307/.367/.521. He was 7th in the CL in average between Larry Sheets and Shoda; in a season dominated by foreigners, he had the third-best average in the league by a Japanese native, following Atsuya Furuta and Tomonori Maeda. He ground into 10 double plays, leading the loop. Paciorek broke his Gold Glove run but he made his third All-Star team. On August 17, he hit the 6,000th home run in Yomiuri history. Komada fell to .249/.308/.339 in a major off-season in 1993. He did reclaim the Gold Glove at first.
Switching to the Yokohama BayStars in 1994, Komada bounced back to bat .284/.321/.429 with 33 doubles. He ground into 29 twin killings, the fourth straight time he paced the league, also setting the CL record in the process. He won his fifth Gold Glove and led the loop in two-baggers as well.
Komada hit .281/.311/.379 with 81 RBI in 1998. He made his last All-Star team and took home his 9th Gold Glove. While it was not one of his best seasons (below average for his career in OPS terms), he made his only Best Nine as the top first baseman in the CL. The Best Nine was dominated by Yokohama players in their first (and through 2009, only) CL title. Joining Komada as Best Nine picks were C Motonobu Tanishige, 2B Bobby Rose, SS Takuro Ishii, OF Maeda, OF Takanori Suzuki and P Kazuhiro Sasaki gave the BayStars seven of the nine slots (Akira Eto and Hideki Matsui were the only other players picked). Yokohama's offense got the nickname "machine gun" due to their multitude of threats. Komada hit .280/.308/.400 with 7 RBI in 6 games as Yokohama beat Seibu for its only Japan Series title (through 2009).
Komada hit .291/.330/.403 with 29 doubles and 71 RBI in 1999. He had a 25-game hitting streak from May 18 through June 17. Another streak that came to an end was 739 Consecutive Games Played, dating back to 1993 (falling shy of the top 10 in NPB history). He also won his 10th and last Gold Glove.
Komada fell to .258/.301/.343 in 85 games in 2000. With Komada slumping, Rose moved to first base to take over. Komada was frustrated with his decreased role and left the stadium once in the course of a contest. Yokohama sent him in the minors. He never recovered from the incident and retired at year's end.
Overall, Komada hit .289/.342/.433 in 7,598 plate appearances and 2,063 NPB games. He had 2,006 hits, 357 doubles, 195 homers and 953 RBI. He just made it into the meikyukai by six hits. Through 2009, he was 24th in NPB history in doubles, 29th in strikeouts (1,113), tied for 7th in double play grounders (229) and second in grand slams (13).
Primary Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland