Johjima with the Hanshin Tigers
|Born: June 8, 1976|
|NPB: May 31, 1995, for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks|
|MLB: April 3, 2006, for the Seattle Mariners|
|MLB: October 3, 2009, for the Seattle Mariners|
|NPB: May 9, 2012, for the Hanshin Tigers|
|Runs batted in||808|
|Runs batted in||198|
|Career highlights and awards|
|World Baseball Classic|
Kenji Johjima ( , J?jima Kenji, born June 8, 1976) is a Japanese former professional baseball player. He played as a catcher in Major League Baseball for four years with the Seattle Mariners in the American League, then returned to Japan and played for the Hanshin Tigers.
On November 21, 2005, Johjima and the Mariners agreed to a $16.5 million, three-year contract. Prior to signing with the Mariners, he played in Japan for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks team in the Pacific League who drafted him in 1999. Johjima also played in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens for Japan. On October 19, 2009, Johjima opted out of the final two years of a three-year extension that he had signed with the Mariners in 2008 with the intention to return to playing in Japan.
Johjima was named to the Pacific League's "Best Nine" for the first time as the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks won the Japan Series and the Pacific League championship. He hit .306 with 33 double and 17 home runs, third in the league in batting average behind Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuo Matsui. He ranked third in doubles and won his first Golden Glove.
He batted .310 in 2000, again earning "Best Nine" honors. He was also named an All-Star while winning another Gold Glove, while stealing a career-best 10 bases.
In 2001, Johjima hit 31 home runs and collected 95 RBI, and was again named to "Best Nine." He was selected to All-Star team and won his third consecutive Gold Glove. He played a career-high 140 games.
In 2002 Johjima won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove while batting .293.
In 2003, he helped lead the Hawks to another Pacific League championship and was named Pacific League's Most Valuable Player. He batted .330 and hit 34 home runs and posted career highs of 101 runs, 182 hits, 39 doubles, 119 RBI, 53 walks, .655 slugging percentage and .432 on-base percentage. Kenji tied his career high of 140 games played while winning his fifth straight Gold Glove, made his fourth "Best Nine" and sixth All-Star squad. He led the Pacific League in total bases, second in hits, RBI, doubles and third in home runs and runs.
He missed part of the 2004 Japan League season while playing in the Olympics but still managed career-highs of .338 and 36 home runs. Johjima was hit by a pitch 22 times, breaking Ichiro's previous Pacific League mark of 18. He homered, doubled twice and had four RBI to lead Japan to 11-2 win over Canada for the bronze medal. He ranked fifth among Olympians with a .378 batting average and seventh with seven runs scored.
A seven-time All-Star for the Hawks, Johjima became a free agent after hitting .309 with 24 home runs and 57 RBI in 116 games, during the 2005 season, which was cut short by two injuries, including a broken leg.
From 1996 through 2005, Johjima hit .299 with 211 home runs and 699 RBI in 1,117 games. His most productive season came in 2003, when he hit .330 with 119 RBI, and finished third with 34 home runs behind Tuffy Rhodes (51) and Alex Cabrera (50).
On November 21, 2005, Johjima and the Seattle Mariners agreed to a $16.5 million, three-year contract.
Johjima became the first Japanese player to catch full-time in the major leagues. Infielder Lenn Sakata, a Japanese-American born in Honolulu, caught one game for the Baltimore Orioles, winning a World Series ring in 1983.
Johjima hit a home run in each of his first two Major League games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on April 3 and April 4, 2006 in Seattle. He was the first catcher since Jerry Moore in 1884 to hit a home run in his first Major League game.
In 2006, his first season with the Mariners, Johjima hit .291 with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs in 144 games. His 18 home runs matched the franchise record for catchers. Johjima hit .322 in August and .295 during the second half of the season. He hit two home runs and drove in a career-best five runs on June 27 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In his rookie season he set the record for most hits by a rookie catcher, with 147. The previous record was 146.
Johjima led the AL in times reached on an error (13), ranked 5th in AL in hit-by-pitch, 11, and 6th in GIDP, 22. His 11 hit-by-pitches was tied for 5th-most in Mariners history. Among AL catchers, ranked 3rd in hits, 4th in average, doubles and RBI and 5th i..from May 1 to the end of the season caught 30 of 68 (44%). Kenji hit his first career grand slam May 26 against the Kansas City Royals off of Brian Bannister; he also hit grand slam July 14 against the Detroit Tigers.
In 2008 Kenji started 95 games at catcher, and has caught 3112.2 innings in the past three seasons, 5th-most in the majors. He threw out 18 of 69 attempted base stealers. On April, 15 he collected career hit number 1,500 on with a double (1,206 in Japan; 294 in Seattle). Johjima stole home May 31, his first career steal of home, only second steal since start of 2007.
On April 25, 2008, the Mariners and Johjima agreed to a three-year contract extension. However, after losing playing time to two other catchers in the 2009 season, Johjima opted out of the final two years of this extension so he could return to playing in Japan, where he signed with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League. He retired a month into the 2012 season.