Yukio Yaegashi (八重樫 幸雄)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 198 lb.
- High School Sendai Shogyo High School
Yaegashi was a first-round pick of the Yakult Atoms in 1969. Yaegashi debuted in 1971, going 2 for 11 with a walk. He got his first hit in NPB off Yutaka Enatsu. Yaegashi was 9 for 46 with two doubles, a triple, homer (off Sohachi Aniya) and 8 walks in 1972 as the backup to Akihiko Oya, a role he would maintain for over a decade. He was 0 for 17 with two walks for Yakult in 1973, but starred in the minors, leading the Eastern League in home runs and RBI. He was 2 for 10 with two walks and a home run in 1974 (Yakult was now called the Yakult Swallows) and 6 for 33 with a double, home run and five walks in 1975. He hit .185/.279/.278 in 61 plate appearances in 1976.
He got into 60 games in 1977 and batted .267/.317/.420, but was down to 11-for-60 with a double, homer and six walks in 1978. Yakult beat the Hankyu Braves in the 1978 Japan Series for their first Japan Series title; Yaegashi was 0 for 1 with a walk as Oya caught every game. The Sendai native hit .208/.313/.399 with 10 home runs in 203 plate appearances and 74 games in 1979 (he was hit by pitch 9 times to tie Sachio Kinugasa for 4th in the Central League) and .212/.282/.354 in 124 plate appearances and 63 contests in 1980. He hit .171/.243/.238 in 183 plate appearances and 71 games in 1981. He did hit the 3,000th homer in franchise history September 10 In 1982, he produced at just a .183/.275/.296 clip in 73 games.
Despite having been under the Mendoza Line back-to-back seasons, he succeeded Oya as the starter in 1983 and did well (.254/.313/.473, 16 HR in 264 AB). He hit .251/.318/.445 with 18 home runs in 1984; in his 14th season, he made his first Central League All-Star team. He struck out 76 times, tying Kiyoyuki Nagashima for 7th in the CL. In 1985, he had his career year. The veteran's batting line was .304/.366/.475; he had 28 doubles, 13 home runs, 68 runs and 68 RBI. He was 10th in the league in average and 4th in doubles (behind Warren Cromartie, Yutaka Takagi and Akinobu Mayumi). He was an All-Star again and was named to the Best Nine as the top catcher in the Central League, not bad for a guy who spent his first decade-plus as a substitute.
After his best year, Yaegashi's performance plummeted in 1986; #28 hit only .216/.262/.296. He made the CL leaderboard in negative areas: strikeouts (86, 7th, between Yoshihiko Takahashi and Kaname Yashiki), errors (14, 7th) and double play grounders (12, tied for 5th with Katsumi Hirosawa). He rebounded to bat .280/.322/.398 and make his third All-Star team in 1987. He tied for second with five sacrifice flies (two behind Tatsunori Hara) and tied for third with 16 double play grounders (trailing Masaru Uno and Leon Lee) In 1988, his production rate was steady (.261/.324/.380) but his playing time was way down (from 400 AB to 92) as Shinji Hata became the starting backstop.
As a third-stringer for Yakult in 1989, he was 17 for 49 with 8 walks, two doubles, three dingers and 17 RBI. With Atsuya Furuta becoming the Swallows' new catcher in 1990, Yaegashi moved to 1B, backing up Hirosawa; he hit .179/.273/.282 in 88 plate appearances, used mostly as a pinch-hitter. He did hit his 100th career homer (the 162nd player in NPB to do so) when he took Koji Nakata deep. Strictly a pinch-hitter, he was 9 for 33 with 5 walks, a double and 7 RBI in 1991. He went 8 for 33 with two doubles, a home run, six walks and 9 RBI in 1992. He was one of only three members of Yakult's 1978 Japan Series team still around for their second Japan Series, the others being Toru Sugiura and Fujio Sumi. He was 0 for 1 in the 1992 Japan Series, as Yakult fell to the Seibu Lions. He was 4 for 25 with six walks and a home run in 1993. He went 0 for 1 in the 1993 Japan Series and the Swallows beat Seibu for their second title; Sugiura and Sumi also remained from their first championship team.
In 1,348 NPB games, Yaegashi had batted .241/.309/.383 with 103 home runs, 312 runs and 401 RBI in 3,600 plate appearances.
A player-coach for Yakult his final year as a batter, he remained active with them as a coach through 2008 then became a scout for the Swallows.