Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Hawks' Nobuhiro Matsuda receives seventh straight Golden Glove

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

It’s awards season in Japanese baseball and just like at the end of the actual season, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are front and center.

Four players from the recently crowned three-time defending Japan Series champions, the most of any team, were recognized on Thursday when the winners of the 48th Mitsui Golden Glove Awards were announced.

Softbank third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda won for the seventh straight time and eighth overall, 19-year veteran Seiichi Uchikawa, a first baseman, won for the first time and the SoftBank battery of ace Kodai Senga and catcher Takuya Kai were also honored in the Pacific League.

There were six first-time winners overall between the two leagues. Ten of NPB’s 12 clubs were represented, with the PL’s Orix Buffaloes and Central League’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows shut out.

Senga, who was among the first-timers, became the first former ikusei (developmental) pitcher to win a Golden Glove. He’s also the franchise’s first pitcher to win since Kimayasu Kudo, the Hawks’ current manager, in 1995, during the club’s Daiei era.

“I’m surprised, it’s my first time to get this award, I’m really happy,” Senga said in comments released by the team. “Because I got this award, I want to give even more effort in defensive practice and raise my level.”

Kai, another former ikusei player, won his third straight award, while Matsuda’s eight Golden Gloves is a record for PL third basemen.

Seibu Lions outfielder Shogo Akiyama collected his fifth straight, and sixth overall, while teammate Sosuke Genda won for the second straight year at shortstop.

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles infielder Hideto Asamura won for the first time at second base after winning as a first baseman with the Lions in 2013.

He moved from Seibu’s MetLife Dome to Rakuten’s outdoor park this year and made a smooth transition in the field.

“I was confident I could win when Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi’s natural grass became my home,” Asamura said in a statement.

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Haruki Nishikawa won his third straight, while Chiba Lotte Marines outfielder Takashi Ogino was honored for the first time.

In the CL, Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi and Yomiuri Giants outfielder Yoshihiro Maru each claimed Golden Gloves for the seventh straight season. The two were teammates in Hiroshima until this season. Carp outfielder Seiya Suzuki also earned the third of his career.

Yokohama BayStars first baseman Jose Lopez won his fourth straight and became NPB’s most decorated foreign player with his fifth overall.

“I’m really happy to win for the fourth straight year, fifth time overall and to become the foreign player to receive the most awards,” Lopez said in a statement released by the team. “I’ve been working for this award all year, but it’s not something you can win by yourself.”

Lopez set the NPB record for most consecutive chances without an error earlier this year, surpassing Kihachi Enomoto’s mark of 1,516. Lopez went from Aug. 17, 2017, until June 2 of this year without an error, establishing a new mark of 1,632.

Like in the PL, the Golden Gloves were contained to a single battery in the CL, with Hanshin Tigers pitcher Yuki Nishi and catcher Ryutaro Umeno winning. They’re the first Tigers battery to win in the same season.

“To be able to win this award, which was a goal, in the Central League where there are a lot of pitchers with high defensive skills, I’m just really honored,” Nishi said in a statement.

Umeno won the award for the second straight year.

The other winners in the CL were Yomiuri Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who won for the third time, and the Chunichi Dragons duo of infielder Shuhei Takahashi and outfielder Yohei Oshima. Takahashi is a first-time recipient, while Oshima earned his seventh award.