Hiroki Kuroda, born on February 10, 1975, is a former professional baseball player from Osaka city.
He started playing baseball in a boys league team, which was managed by his father, who used to play professionally for the Nankai Hawks. Kuroda went on to study in Uenomiya High School, which is famous for its high school baseball.
During his high school days, he didn’t really stand out since he played as a relief pitcher, however, in his 4th year in Senshu University, because of his 6 wins in the Tohto University Baseball League’s First Division, he was picked up by Hiroshima Toyo Carp, in the 1996 draft meeting.
When Kuroda joined the team, he first played in their minor league team and gave up 10 scores in 1 inning at a match. The wall that separated him from the professionals proved to be too great of an obstacle.
On April 25, he made his first appearance on the main team as a starting pitcher in the Yomiuri Giants match, and he pitched the entire game with good results. He finished the season with 6 wins and 9 losses.
His second and third year went by sluggishly with the sign of hope for victory.
However, in his fourth year, in 2000, he was put on the starting rotation, and he finished with 9 wins and 6 losses, which included 7 complete games. Next year, in 2001, when he produced double digit wins (12 all together), he earned the team’s trust as the starting pitcher.
In 2003, he had his first shot as pitcher in the opening game of the season, and when he took the team’s ace position away from Shinji Sasaoka, he was chosen for the Japan national team for the Athens Olympics that was held from August 15, where he his efforts as a mid-relief pitcher helped win the bronze medal.
In the regular season, he finished with 13 wins and 9 losses, achieving double digit wins for the third consecutive year. He had slowly developed into one of Japan’s formidable pitchers.
In 2005, he earned his first title for most wins with his 15 victories, and next year, he earned his first individual title for best ERA with at 1.85. During the off-season, he was often talked about because of his determination to only play for Carp for as long as he is in Japan.
In 2007, Kuroda again pitched in the opening game, which was now his fifth year in a row, and he achieved his 100th win in NPB. Even with his 12 wins and 8 losses, along with his stable performance, Hiroshima Carp stayed as a B Class club for 10 consecutive years.
Finally, after the end of the season, Kuroda acquired his free agent rights and he announced his decision to move to MLB, where he managed to sign a 3 year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On April 4, 2008, he made his MLB debut as the starting pitcher in the San Diego Padres match, and took home his first victory. However, just like in Hiroshima, he couldn’t rely on help from the batting lineup, and he ended up finishing the season with a score of 9-10 and a 3.73 ERA after 31 match appearances.
In 2010, with 11 wins and 13 losses, he had marked down his first season in MLB with double digit wins, although he ended with more losses than wins. Still, Kuroda was seen as a valuable asset, and because there were several matches where the batting lineup couldn’t provide enough support, he was able to renew his contract with the Dodgers.
When he signed with the New York Yankees in 2012, he reached the height of his professional career when he earned 16 wins in a season, and took the Yankees to both the division and league championships.
On top of that, he achieved his 150th combined win in NPB and MLB, and reached his 2000th career strikeout in NPB and MLB. He was able to demonstrate the extent of his abilities on a regular basis.
Even though he received offers from his previous teams, the Dodgers and Padres, as well as several other MLB teams during the off-season in 2014, Kuroda eventually announced his plan to return to Hiroshima Toyo Carp. His decision to turn down high paying offers from outside of Japan and to return to Carp shocked people both in Japan and in foreign countries.
Even while suffering from injuries, he continued to lead the way for young pitchers in Carp, as well as bring in double digit wins for two consecutive years as the starting pitcher. Two years after his return, in 2016, he finally achieved his long awaited goal – the Carp’s 7th league championships title after 25 years.
Kuroda also managed to reach 200 career wins in NPB and MLB, and after the Japan Series, he decided to bow out after a long, 20 year, career.
Hiroshima Carp, highly praised Hiroki Kuroda’s achievements and they decided to retire his number 15.