Tsuyoshi Nishioka, born on July 7, 1984, is a professional baseball player from Daito, Osaka prefecture. Currently he is playing for the Hanshin Tigers. During his third year in Osaka Toin High School, which is known for its high school baseball, he appeared in the 84th National High School Baseball Championship as his team’s cleanup hitter. In the 2002 draft, he was picked up by the Chiba Lotte Marines in the first round.
Nishioka started to stand out in his second year with the Marines, in 2004, when he hit 6 home runs after becoming a switching hitter. In the middle of the 2005 season, he started to have more opportunities to appear in matches as a second baseman or shortstop in the starting lineup, and as a result, he became the Pacific League’s youngest player ever to steal 41 bases in a single season, which also earned him the Stolen Bases King.
Moreover, he won the Best Nine and Golden Glove award, on top of that, he greatly contributed to Lotte’s victories in the Pacific League and the Japan Series.
Nishioka was chosen for the Japan national team for the first WBC that was held in May of 2006. In the tournament, he appeared in 8 matches, and with a batting average of .355, 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, and 5 stolen bases, he helped the team become the first WBC champions.
The Marines sank to 4th place in the coming regular season, but Nishioka himself managed to produce similar results as the previous year, and with 33 stolen bases, he won his second consecutive Stolen Bases award.
In 2007, he reached a .300 batting average for the first time in his career, and he won the Best Nine and Golden Glove awards again. He had become one of NPB’s best players.
Nishioka was also chosen to represent Japan in the Beijing Olympics that was held in August of 2008. He showed a .455 BA, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, but even though people expected Japan to win the gold medal, they ended up with a disappointing 4th place finish.
However, that season, he not only achieved a .300 batting average for the 2nd consecutive year in the Marines, but he also recorded his first double digit homerun, and he managed to attain his personal highest yearly salary at 170 million yen.
In 2010, he was made team captain, and he showed good results that season starting from the opening match. That year, he set the NPB record for earning his 27th Multi Hit award (earned for hitting three or more times in a game).
Moreover, with a .346 BA, he earned the Batting Champion award and with 206 hits, he won the title for most hits. He became the second player after Ichiro Suzuki to achieve 200 hits in a single season as a switch hitter in the Pacific League.
After the end of the season, he applied for a transfer to MLB with the posting system, and on December 17, 2010, he signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins, making him the first ever Japanese infield player in the team.
During his first year in MLB, he was able to secure a spot in the starting lineup for the opening game, but in the New York Yankees match on April 7, he was put on the disabled list after he fractured his left fibula. Although he did return to play later that season, he wasn’t able to produce stable results, and consequently he was named the Least Valuable Player by CBS SPORTS, which was a frustrating way for him to end a season.
The next year, in 2012, he started his team’s minor league opening game, and by August 6, he had promoted back to the major league team. Sadly, he was struck out in all 12 at bats in 3 matches, and in one of the matches, he made two errors.
Both his batting and fielding had lost their edge, which is why he was sent back to the minor leagues, where he finished the season. During the off-season, he offered to have the contract abolished, and became a free agent.
Without being able to leave any notable results in the Major Leagues, Nishioka left the Minnesota Twins, and signed a contract with the Hanshin Tigers on November 20, 2012. During his first year with the Tigers, he secured a regular spot as a first or second baseman, and appeared in 122 matches.
He recorded a batting average of .290, 144 hits, 44 RBIs, 4 home runs, and achieved a combined total of 1000 hits in NPB and MLB, earning the Best Nine award for his efforts.
He was the driving force behind pushing his team up to second place from last year’s 5th place regular season finish.
However, when he was swapped by right fielder Kosuke Fukudome during the 2014 season’s match against the Giants, Nishioka was taken off the rotation. After that, injuries have often taken him out for long periods almost every year. At the moment, people are hoping to see him recover and become the main force behind the Hanshin Tigers.