April 1, 1968 |
|NPB: 1986, for the Yomiuri Giants|
|MLB: June 10, 2007, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|August 13, 2007, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Career highlights and awards|
Masumi Kuwata (桑田 真澄 Kuwata Masumi, born 1 April 1968 in Yao, Osaka, Japan) is a former Japanese right-handed pitcher who played the bulk of his career with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball. He pitched 21 seasons with the Giants, beginning in 1986. Near the end of his career, he played part of one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball.
Kuwata entered the prestigious PL (Perfect Liberty) High School in Osaka. He and his teammate Kazuhiro Kiyohara immediately became stars in high school baseball. Kuwata led his team to five Koshien tournaments, winning the tournament twice. He won 20 games at Koshien, which is second only to Masao Yoshida's 23 wins.
The Yomiuri Giants drafted Kuwata in the 1st round in 1985. The draft generated some controversy, since Kuwata had repeatedly expressed a desire to enter Waseda University, prompting other teams to refrain from picking him in the draft. Kuwata reversed his previous statements and immediately signed with the Yomiuri Giants, adding fuel to rumors that he had conspired with the Giants to avoid being picked by other teams.
Kuwata quickly established his presence in the professional leagues, winning 15 games in his second year (1987) with a 2.17 ERA, the lowest in the league.
Major League pitcher Bill Gullickson played for the Giants in 1988–1989, and befriended Kuwata. Gullickson named his son Craig Kuwata Gullickson after Kuwata, and gave much advice to the Japanese pitcher. Kuwata has said his dream of playing in the Major Leagues came from Gullickson. However, many obstacles kept him from realizing this dream — including his great success in Nippon Professional Baseball. He won the Eiji Sawamura Award (the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award) the same year, and won over ten games for six consecutive seasons starting in 1992.
Kuwata suffered a severe injury to his right elbow while attempting to catch a pop fly in June, 1995, ending his season. Kuwata had surgery in the U.S., and spent the rest of 1995 and all of 1996 in rehab. He made a comeback in 1997, winning 10 games, and 16 games in 1998, but his pitching had deteriorated considerably compared to the years before his injury, particularly with a loss of velocity off his fastball.
Kuwata considered retirement during the 2001 off-season, but Giants general manager Tatsunori Hara convinced him to remain on the team. On April 19, 2002, Kuwata pitched brilliantly in defeating Hanshin Tigers ace Kei Igawa by a score of 1-0, and showed he could still be an important part of the Giants' rotation. Kuwata went on to have a banner year in 2002, posting a 2.22 ERA (lowest in the league), and winning over 10 games for the first time in four years. However, he pitched poorly from 2003-2006, appearing in a total of only 45 games (44 starts), while compiling an overall 9-16 record during those four years.
Kuwata pitched 118 complete games during his career in Japan.
Major League Baseball
At the end of the 2006 season, Kuwata surprised fans by announcing his intent to play in the Major Leagues. In December 2006 Kuwata signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 38-year-old rookie, ending his 21-year stay with the Yomiuri Giants. Despite interest from the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kuwata chose Pittsburgh because he thought the Pirates offered him the best opportunity to pitch in the majors.
Kuwata participated in spring training with the Pirates, but injured his right ankle, ending his hopes of making their Opening Day roster. The Pirates placed him on their Triple-A Indianapolis Indians roster as a disabled player, giving him a chance to work his way up to the majors.
On June 9, 2007, Kuwata was promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates after reliever Salomón Torres was placed on the disabled list. He became the first Japanese player in Pirates team history. He made his Major League debut June 10, 2007 in a game against the New York Yankees. At that time he was 39 years old, which was the oldest debut with the exception of Satchel Paige and Diomedes Olivo in the post-World War II era. He gave up two runs in 2 innings on a home run to third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
On August 14, the Pirates designated Kuwata for assignment. The Pirates outrighted him to Triple-A on August 17 but Kuwata refused the assignment. Afterwards, he returned home to Japan.
In December 2007, Kuwata signed a minor league contract with the Pirates for the 2008 season. The contract included an invitation to spring training with the team.
Kuwata announced his retirement from baseball on March 26, 2008 after not making the team out of spring training. Upon announcing his retirement, the Pittsburgh Pirates offered Kuwata a coaching position with the club, but he declined.
On January 28, 2009, at age 40, he was accepted into the Graduate School of Sport Sciences of Waseda University, and he went on to graduate first in his class. His thesis describes the "Yakyu-Do", the soul and spirit of Japanese baseball, which has been an integral part of the game from its earliest days in Japan during the Meiji Era to the present. Kuwata is also an outspoken critic of the hazing and physical punishment that is prevalent in Japanese sports.
- "Fukui blasts one for Giants". The Japan Times. 2002-04-20. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- Masumi Kuwata [桑田 真澄] - Japanese Baseball
- "Pirates sign Japanese RHP Kuwata to minor-league contract MLB Yahoo! Sports". Yahoo! Sports. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
- Fitzpatrick, Mike (2007-06-10). "MLB - Pittsburgh Pirates New York Yankees Recap June 10, 2007". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
- "Bucs designate longtime Japanese star Kuwata for assignment". ESPN. 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- Pirates pitcher Kuwata will announce his retirement - PittsburghLIVE.com
- Suzuki Shigeru (2010-08-04). "ADVICE TO TEENAGE BASEBALL PLAYERS/Masumi Kuwata: The secret to playing better ball, still having fun". Asahi.com. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- "Tokyo university loses record 86th straight game". ESPN.com. Associated Press. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Career statistics, links and information on JapaneseBallPlayers.com
- "Pirates pick up pair of foreign-born right-handed pitchers" The Valley Independent, 18 December 2006