Tetsuya Iida

From BR Bullpen

Tetsuya Iida

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 158 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Tetsuya Iida was a seven-time Gold Glove outfielder for the Yakult Swallows who stole over 240 bases in his career, making one Best Nine team. Jack Howell noted that the defensively gifted Iida "could run the ball down like crazy and would make leaping catches against the walls and bring balls back. He...had a real good arm." Howell also was impressed by Tetsuya's love for the game and his "big heart."

Iida was a catcher in high school and Yakult took him in the 4th round of the 1986 NPB draft. He spent his first couple years as a pro at ni-gun. He went 1 for 9 with 5 runs in 22 games, primarily as a pinch-runner presumably, for the 1989 Swallows. As Yakult had just drafted Atsuya Furuta as their catcher of the future (a wise projection, in retrospect), Iida was moved to second base. He became a regular in 1990 and batted .279/.330/.381, though he was thrown out 16 times in 45 attempts to steal.

Yakult signed Johnny Ray in 1991 and Iida moved to the outfield, where he would spend the remainder of his career. He won his first Gold Glove that year and produced at a .242/.301/.329 clip only. Iida had arguably his best season ever the next year. The 22-year-old Swallows outfielder batted .294/.345/.411, setting career highs in slugging, triples (8), home runs (7), doubles (24), total bases (214) and RBI (42). At one point, he stole 27 bases in a row, setting a new Central League record - he was 33 for 37 on the year. He tied Yutaka Wada and Teruyoshi Kuji for the league lead in triples and tied Kenjiro Nomura for the stolen base lead. He also won a Gold Glove and made his only Best Nine, joining Tomonori Maeda and Larry Sheets in the outfield for the CL. He hit .367/.400/.500 in the 1992 Japan Series but Yakult dropped the 7-game set to the Seibu Lions, who were rapping up one of the most impressive dynasties in Nippon Pro Baseball history.

In '93, Iida fell off drastically, only managing a weak .217/.290/.287 line. He still won his third Gold Glove. He bounced back in the 1993 Japan Series, batting an impressive .400/.536/.550 with 8 hits and 6 walks in the 7-game victory by Yakult. Tetsuya kept rolling in 1994, producing at a .290/.338/.369 rate. He stole 30 in 44 tries and led the CL in times thrown out on the bases. He was second to Kenjiro Nomura in stolen bases and tied for third in the league in triples, while taking home his fourth Gold Glove in a row.

The 1995 season continued his roller coaster pace, though his decline was not as sharp. He still batted .253/.317/.356 and went 35 for 43 in steals, making a career high in thefts and also setting career bests in walks (46) and runs (78). He tied his high of 7 homers and won his fifth Gold Glove. He was second to Koichi Ogata in stolen bases and led the league in triples for the second time. He hit .261/.292/.304 in the 1995 Japan Series as Yakult won for the second victory in three years.

In 1996, the Swallows center fielder batted .290/.327/.392 but was only 13 for 22 in steals; he won his sixth Gold Glove. The next year, he topped 20 steals for the last time (26, caught 10 times) and won his 7th Gold Glove in a row and his last. He hit .306/.349/.397 to set career highwater marks in average, finishing 8th in the CL. He tied Nomura for second in steals (behind Ogata) and tied Bobby Rose for second in triples (7), one behind Daisuke Masuda. Iida injured his shoulder sliding into third in the last home game of the year and Mitsuru Manaka took his spot in the 1997 Japan Series, which Yakult won.

Now 30, the veteran was on the decline. He hit .283/.335/.339 in '98 but Manaka had become the regular center fielder. In 1999, Tetsuya hit .210/.269/.250, getting only 124 AB in 72 games. The next year, he hit .253/.330/.363, followed by a .294/.354/.364 year. Each year, he was used in a limited role, playing over 100 games, but getting under 200 AB. In the 2001 Japan Series (another win for Yakult), he was just 1 for 9 with two steals, playing in all five games. More injuries sidelined him in 2002 and he was limited to 58 AB, hitting .190/.200/.207. In '03, he hit .263/.326/.372 in a solid performance backup role. He only went 1 for 10 in three games during the entire 2004 year.

At age 35, Iida found new life when the expansion Rakuten Golden Eagles were formed, just in time, as Yakult was breaking in a new star in center, Norichika Aoki. Tetsuya split the Rakuten center field job with fellow veteran Koichi Sekikawa and younger Manabu Satake. He hit .331/.348/.362 in 127 AB as one of the club's most productive players. In a reduced role the next year, he still was productive for a bench man with a .273/.333/.318 in 88 AB over 40 games. He became the 148th player in NPB history to play in 1,500 games.

Retiring at the end of the 2006 season, Iida had a career batting line of .273/.326/.362 in 1,505 games. He had 234 steals in 325 tries.

After retiring, he became a coach for Yakult.

Primary Source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland. Howell quote is from Remembering Japanese Baseball by Rob Fitts (pg. 197)