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Hiroshima Carp star Takahiro Arai had two hits on Sunday, leaving him with 1,999 for his career. Recently, each base knock by Arai has been met with an ever-growing wave of jubilation from fans, as he draws closer to the 2,000-hit threshold only 46 others (solely in NPB) have crossed.

At this point for Arai, 39, it’s simply a matter of when he’ll get the milestone hit, which member of the Meikyukai will present him with the customary bouquet of flowers and what the commemorative T-shirts will look like.

Things are not so simple for longtime Chiba Lotte Marines player Kazuya Fukuura.

Like Arai, the 40-year-old Fukuura entered the season with his 2,000th hit a possibility. The Marines even created a “Fuku-Meter” to count down to the occasion. But unlike Arai, Fukuura, who is sitting at 1,912 hits, isn’t playing every day. He’s not even on the top team currently, toiling away with the Marines’ farm team.

Fukuura still has some productivity left in him, perhaps even enough to get to 2,000 hits, but a lack of playing time may trip him up in the end. Fukuura only had 92 at-bats last year and hasn’t cracked 200 since 2011.

He’s approaching 2,000 at a snail’s pace, and while there is still a chance he hits the mark (this year or in the future), the odds he runs out of time are just as high, if not slightly better, based solely on his usage.

Fukuura is 52nd on the career hits list and third among active players behind Kazuo Matsui, who has 2,044 (2,659 counting his MLB hits), and Arai.

He’s been a Lotte staple since being taken in the seventh round of the 1993 draft. A three-time All-Star and a former batting champion, Fukuura saw regular playing time during the team’s Japan Series-winning campaigns in 2005 and 2010. In his later years, Fukuura has been a mentor for many on the team.

“He was an amazing first baseman, he saved me at first base a lot of times,” said Yomiuri Giants infielder Luis Cruz, who played second base for the Marines in 2014 and 2015. “He’s such a professional hitter. Every time he pinch-hit for us, he knew what he wanted to do, and that’s the type of player you want.”

Fukuura, who has yet to make an ichi-gun appearance this year, has eight hits in 26 at-bats on the farm.

He needs 88 top-team hits to reach the promised land. The last time he had that many hits in a single year was in 2010, when he played in 116 games.

Assuming Arai reaches the goal in short order, that would leave eight players who surpassed 1,900 hits but couldn’t (or have yet to) reach 2,000.

Tokuji Iida, who spent 17 seasons with the Nankai Hawks and Kokutetsu Swallows, came closest out of that group, ending his career (1947-1963) with 1,978 hits. Shoichi Busujima, who played for the Toei Flyers from 1954-1971, also came close with 1,977, while Harutoshi Kodama retired with 1,963 after playing from 1954-1969, for the Kintetsu Buffaloes (who went through three name changes during his tenure) and Hanshin Tigers.

More recently, Yoshitomo Tani, who like Fukuura wasn’t a superstar but was a solid, steady contributor for a number of years, was cruising toward the goal at a moderate pace before his playing time dipped drastically in his later years. He retired in 2015 with 1,928 hits.

The 2,000-hit mark becomes a harder target for Fukuura to reach with each passing day, mostly because, like Tani, his chances might be too few and far between.

Arai, and Carp fans, will get to bask in glory soon, perhaps on Tuesday. As Arai’s race comes to an end, Lotte fans may be wondering if one of their favorite sons will have enough time to also make it across the finish line.

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