Kosuke Fukudome, born on April 26, 1977, is a professional baseball player from Kagoshima, who is currently playing for the Hanshin Tigers.
By fall of his first year in PL Academy, which is famous for its high school baseball, Fukudome had become the team’s No. 4 batter. As the top high school slugger, he became the subject of a lot of attention.
In the 1995 draft, 7 teams picked him in the 1st round, and although the Kintetsu Buffaloes won the negotiation rights, he turned down their offer. He played in a team outside of NPB, and in the 1998 draft, he was picked up by his team of choice, the Chunichi Dragons.
The Dragons put him to immediate use, and as a starting member in his first year, he showed excellent results as a rookie with a .284 batting average and 16 home runs. His efforts helped the Dragons win their league pennant.
In 2002, when he was converted from an infielder to an outfielder, he was able to make full use of his fast legs and strong shoulder. This helped solve his fielding issues and give him a fixed spot on the team.
Also, by improving his batting form, he was able to show his true potential as the team’s No. 3 batter. With 186 hits and a .343 batting average, he won his first title – the Batting Champion.
Moreover, he managed to produce good results in 2003 as well, and on June 8, he hit a cycle in the match against the Hiroshima Carp. By the end of the season, he had a batting average of .314, 34 home runs, 96 RBIs, and he had developed into the Central League’s top tier batter.
His efforts were recognized, and he was selected for the Japan national team for next year’s 2004 Athens Olympics where he helped win the bronze medal. That year, the Dragons won the league pennant, but a bone fracture from a dead ball forced Fukudome to sit out the second half of the season, and took away his chance to demonstrate his might that year.
However, he fully recovered by the 2005 opening game, where he was batting as the team’s No. 5, and produced a .328 BA, 28 home runs, 103 RBIs. This earned him the title for highest OBP and his third Golden Glove award.
In 2006, he was chosen for Samurai Japan squad, where his signature batting helped Japan win the first World Baseball Classic championship. As the regular season started, he showed stable batting results and he won the Batting Champion award with a large lead.
With a batting average of .351, 31 home runs, 104 RBIs, he achieved his personal highest records. He won the Batting Champion award along with the title for the highest OBP for 2 years in a row, as well as the Central League MVP award. On top of that, he marked down his third league championship title.
Fukudome had long yearned for a chance to play in the Major Leagues, and in the 2007 off-season, he signed a 4 year contract with the Chicago Cubs. In the opening match, he played as the No. 5 right fielder in the opening lineup, and with 3 at bats, he made an unforgettable debut appearance with 3 hits, 3 RBIs, which included a home run.
He continued producing good results, but he had issues with inside fastballs, and when it caught on that he struggled against left handed pitchers, his numbers started to drop. The team had to rethink how they would use him, which is why he now had more appearances as a defensive player. His season ended with meager results – a batting average of .257 and 10 home runs.
The next year, he started in good shape in April, as always, but in May, he started to lose momentum and he wasn’t able to stabilize. When he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in the 2011 off-season, he went on to also play for the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees for a short period of time.
In 2013, he signed a contract with the Hanshin Tigers and returned to Japanese baseball.
Even though he received a high annual salary when he joined the Tigers, he struggled to produce results and suffered from injuries. Having betrayed the fans’ expectations, he was often booed.
However, during his 3rd year, in 2015, he started demonstrating excellent batting and stable fielding, which started bringing in points for his team. That year, his batting stats were the best in the team in all three batting stats: .281 BA, 20 home runs, 76 RBIs.
Also, he reached 250 combined home runs from NPB and MLB, 1500 total hits in NPB, and he achieved his 2nd cycle. In 2017, at age 40, he became the team’s captain, and even now, his presence is strong in the team, where young players haven’t yet blossomed.