Norichika Aoki, born on January 5, 1982, is a professional baseball player from Hyuga city in Miyazaki prefecture. He is the second player in NPB history, after Ichiro Suzuki, to achieve 200 hits. On top of that, he is the only player in history to achieve 200 hits in a single season twice, which is why he is widely known as “the hitting machine”.
During his high school days, Aoki played as a pitcher, but because he blew his shoulder, he started playing as a position player in university. He then helped the Waseda University baseball club achieve 4 consecutive championships – a feat that had never been done in the club’s history.
In the draft meeting that was held on November 19, 2003, he was picked in the 4th round by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
In his rookie year, in 2004, he appeared in the Yakult’s top team for 10 matches, but in their minor league team, he won the Eastern League’s Batting Champion and OPB Leader awards. When he secured a regular position in the top team as an outfielder in 2005, he started producing a lot of hits, and by the end of the season he had raked in 202 hits, earning him the title for most hits, and with a batting average of .344, he also won the Batting Leader and received the Rookie of the Year Award.
Before the 2006 season opening game, Nori was selected to represent Japan in the first WBC where he appeared in 6 matches as the center fielder and helped lead his team to victory.
He continued in good shape in the coming NPB regular season matches. That season, he not only achieved 192 hits, which earned him his second consecutive title for most hits, but also earned his first Stolen Base King award for his 41 stolen bases.
Furthermore, in 2007, with a batting average of .346, he again won the Batting Champion and the Highest OPB titles. With a total of 193 hits that season, he had developed into the nation’s No. 1 hit producing machine.
In 2009, Aoki was chosen for the Japan national team in the 2nd WBC tournament, where he appeared in all matches as the No. 3 batter. In 37 at bats, he managed 12 hits, .324 BA, and 7 RBIs, which greatly contributed to the team’s 2nd consecutive champion. He was able to show the world what he is capable of and for this he was given the tournament’s Best Nine award.
In 2010, Aoki recorded 209 hits, with a batting average of .358. That year, he won his third Batting Champion title and he set a new NPB record for achieving 200 hits for second time.
Once again, he was able to produce stable results.
In the off-season of 2011, he announced his plan to move to MLB using the posting system. Next year, on January 17, he signed a 2 year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. He made his first MLB appearance on April 6, when he was used as a pinch hitter in the match against the St. Louis Cardinals, and by the end of May, he had secured a spot on the Brewers’ starting lineup.
His first Major Leagues season ended with 151 match appearances, .288 BA, 10 home runs, and 30 stolen bases.
When he was used as the lead-off right fielder in the starting lineup for the 2013 opening game, he became the 4th Japanese player in history to hit a home run in a Major league opening game. On June 5, he reached a combined total of 1500 hits in NPB and MLB, and on July 28, he marked down his 100th career home run.
That year, he appeared in 155 matches, and finished the season with a .286 batting average, 8 home runs, and 20 stolen bases. On December 5, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals.
However, while he was with the Royals, injuries dragged down his batting results, and he left the team after 2 years.
In January of 2015, he signed a contract with the San Francisco Giants, where he was used in the starting lineup right from the opening match. He managed to mark down hits for 9 games in a row and generally show good results. However, in the match against the Chicago Cubs on August 9, he was taken off the game after being hit by a dead ball to the head.
After that, his stats were greatly influenced by the after affects of his concussion, which meant he had to finish the season on the side lines. Later on, he briefly played for team like the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Toronto BlueJays, and the New York Mets.
During his time with the Astros, he became the 7th Japanese player in history to achieve a combined total of 2000 hits in NPB and MLB, however, his stats were steadily going down. Then on January 30th, 2018, Nori finally announced returning to Japan and signed a three-year deal with his former club, Tokyo Yakult Swallows.