Imanari with the Hanshin Tigers
|Hanshin Tigers – No. 49|
|Born:October 6, 1987|
|NPB: 2008 for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters|
Ryota Imanari (今成 亮太, born October 6, 1987 in Fujimi, Saitama) is a Japanese professional baseball infielder for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. He previously played as catcher for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Early Baseball Career
Ryota started playing baseball even before he entered grade school. In junior high, he was also a member of the school's soccer club and even played in the Saitama Prefecture soccer tournament. He entered Urawa Gakuin, a high-school in Saitama known for its baseball team. In his second year, he was elected as team captain, and as a catcher led his team to participate in the Summer Koshien Tournament and the Spring Invitational Tournament.
He was the Fighter's 4th pick in the 2005 draft.
Nippon Ham Fighters
2006: In his rookie year, he played as a catcher in the team's farm league games, and participated in the Miyazaki Phoenix League during the latter half of the season.
2008: He appeared in his first ichi-gun game on the March 25 game with the Lions, and formed a battery with fellow rookie Akiyoshi Toyoshima during the 8th inning. His first hit as a pro came the next day when he pinch hit with the same team. In July 9, he appeared in the starting line-up for the first time in the game with the Chiba Lotte Marines, where he went 3-4 and recorded his first RBI.
2009-2010: His first-squad appearances decreased with the entry of Shota Ohno. He only appeared as a pinch-hitter once in 2010.
2011: He played in a total of 22 games. He was appointed as a pinch-hitter in 19 games, and played as catcher in 6 games.
In April 28, 2012, he was transferred to the Hanshin Tigers in exchange for pitcher Ryuji Wakatake, and was assigned the jersey no. 49. His father Yasuaki Imanari, is a scouting agent for the Fighters.
In 2013, following the transfer of Takeshi Hidaka from the Orix Buffaloes, the team found itself with one too many catchers, and had to find a way to utilize Ryota's batting skills. During the inter-league games, he was assigned as a designated hitter, then was later on promoted to the starting line-up as a left fielder.
In the July 5–7 card with the Carps at the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium, he hit his first pro home-run on his first at-bat, then recorded 4 more hits as the 5th batter 2 days after. By mid-August, he was fixed as the right fielder and 6th hitter in the line-up, as Kosuke Fukudome was sidelined from an injury. But due to his limited experience as an outfielder (season total of 3 errors), he was also assigned different fielding positions depending on the situation. In season total, he played 53 games as an outfielder, 4 games as first baseman, and 3 as catcher.
During the first leg of the climax series match with Hiroshima, he hit a solo timely off Kenta Maeda during his second at-bat in the 4th inning, tying the game. This was the first time in 49 innings that the Tigers scored a hit from Maeda.
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- "マエケン 苦手な相手は意外にも…攻略法テレビで明かした". Sponichi News. January 19, 2014.