HIROSHIMA – Shinnosuke Abe, a key member on seven pennant-winning Yomiuri Giants teams and the Central League’s 2012 MVP, reached Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit milestone on Sunday.
Now a first baseman, the 38-year-old Abe was the Giants’ catcher from his rookie year in 2001 until 2014. He is the 49th player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to reach 2,000 hits, but only the fourth to do it primarily as a catcher.
He entered Sunday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp one hit shy of the mark, and got it in the ninth inning. When Abe reached first base, Carp infielder Takahiro Arai, a member of the 2,000-hit club himself, presented Abe with a bouquet of flowers.
“I’m so relieved to get that hit,” Abe said. “This wasn’t like usual. My heart was pounding with nerves.
“I doesn’t feel real. Frankly, I’m wondering if I actually did something so amazing. Now, I’d like to aim for 2,500.”
Abe, who was a third baseman until his high school team needed a catcher and he was the only volunteer, played for Japan at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was named the Giants’ top draft pick that autumn.
Although he batted only .225 as a rookie with 13 home runs, Abe entered Sunday with a .285 career average and 386 home runs to his name.
In 2012, Abe led the CL in batting, RBIs and on-base percentage and was chosen the league MVP. He has won nine Best Nine awards as the CL’s top backstop and four Golden Gloves.
The only other catchers to record 2,000 hits are Katsuya Nomura, Atsuya Furuta and Motonobu Tanishige. Both Nomura and Furuta are in the Hall of Fame, while the recently retired Tanishige is not yet eligible.