March 28, 1975 |
Panama City, Panama
|MLB: April 6, 2000 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last professional appearance|
|Liga Mexicana de Béisbol: 2009 for the Broncos de Reynosa|
|Runs batted in||417|
|Career highlights and awards|
Julio Ernesto Zuleta Tapia (born March 28, 1975 in Panama City, Panama) is a former professional baseball player. He played parts of two seasons in Major League Baseball, from 2000–01, for the Chicago Cubs, and six seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball from 2003–08, primarily as a first baseman.
He graduated from the Colegio Javier in Panama City and speaks five languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and Japanese. He is 197 cm (6 ft 5⅝ in) tall and weighs 113 kg (250 lb).
He was signed as a free agent by the Chicago Cubs on September 15, 1992 and spent a year with the Gulf Coast League Cubs in 1993. He began 1994 in Huntington before going back down to play with the GCL Cubs. Zuleta made his major league debut with the Cubs in 2000, ultimately playing in 30 games, hitting .294 with 3 home runs and 20 hits overall.
Zuleta began playing professional baseball in Japan in 2003 with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. His best year with the Hawks came in 2005, when he hit 43 home runs with a .319 batting average. He holds the Hawks club record for most home runs by a foreigner. From 2004–2006, he hit the most home runs in the league (109) over the three-year span.
After the 2006 season, Zuleta was released by the Hawks and signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines as a free agent. He signed a two-year contract with the Marines. During the 2007 season, Zuleta was hit by a pitch which broke his finger. He continued to play for several months and led the team in home runs with 15 home runs. On September 22, 2007, in a game against the Rakuten Golden Eagles, he became the 61st player in Japanese professional baseball history to hit for the cycle.
During the 2008 season, Zuleta spent most of the season deactivated for various reasons, which has been a point of controversy. On June 7, 2008, he blasted a hit on the roof light in Tokyo Dome and was given a ground-rule home run, becoming only the second player to ground a home run in the dome beside Ralph Bryant.
Zuleta was released by the Marines after the 2008 season, though he had previously chosen to play for the Panamanian national team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The Japanese fans gave Zuleta the name "Samurai" because of his perseverance. He was a three-time All Star. He is one of only three players in Japanese baseball to hit three home runs in one game. He achieved this feat twice: once against the Orix BlueWave (2003) and another time against the Seibu Lions (2006). Zuleta also homered against 13 different Japanese teams; the only other player to have done so was Fernando Seguignol.
In 2009, Zuleta founded Zuleta's Indoor Batting Cages in Fort Myers, Florida, providing an upscale indoor facility for baseball and softball training and instruction, which he later sold in 2012. Zuleta lives in Florida with his wife Stacey and their two children, Gabriella and Kenzo.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- "Bobby Valentine, Japan's Baseball Sweetheart," Japan's Quality English Magazine Weekender (March 16–29, 2007)