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John E. Gibson

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Fighters strike Gold with 7 fielding awards

by John E. Gibson (Nov 11, 2009)

The Pacific League champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters didn't get to the end of the rainbow, but they got a pot of gold.

A team-record seven Fighters earned Mitsui Golden Glove Awards, announced Tuesday in Tokyo, three days after the club came up short against the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series.

Five of the PL Golden Glove winners were first-timers, including 16-year veteran shortstop Makoto Kaneko, the oldest-ever in the league to win at his position at 34.

First baseman Shinji Takahashi, in his 13th year, third baseman Eiichi Koyano, outfielder Yoshio Itoi and catcher Shinya Tsuruoka were also first-time winners. They joined outfielder Atsunori Inaba and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka, who both won for the fourth straight year.

It was also the most selections for Nippon Ham since it won five in 2006, and from one PL team since the Seibu Lions had eight in 1992. The Hanshin Tigers also had eight in the Central League in 1978.

Pitcher Hideaki Wakui of the Saitama Seibu Lions picked up his first selection. The fifth-year right-hander became the first Lion to win the award since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, and the fourth hurler in club history.

Seventh-year outfielder Tomotaka Sakaguchi of the Orix Buffaloes came back after last year's first-time selection to win again.

The fifth-year Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have yet to produce a Golden Glove winner, even though the team finished its best season with a second-place run.

The Japan Series-winning Giants had three selections, led by right-hander Dicky Gonzalez, who became the first foreign pitcher to win a Golden Glove. He earned earned his first selection by edging out the Tokyo Yakult Swallows' Masanori Ishikawa by four votes.

It was the closest voting in either league, and Gonzalez became the first Giants pitcher to win a Golden Glove since Koji Uehara (now with the Baltimore Orioles) in 2003.

The sixth-year hurler, who was picked up after being released from the Swallows, had a career year, winning 15 games and posting a 2.11 ERA in 23 games after starting the season on the farm team.

Outfielders Yoshiyuki Kamei, in his fifth year, and third-year Tetsuya Matsumoto also won for the first time.

Matsumoto became the first player to come from the developmental roster to win a Golden Glove.

It was the first time in seven years that Yomiuri had two outfield winners. Hideki Matsui and Yoshinobu Takahashi won Golden Gloves in 2002.

The Chunichi Dragons, who finished second in the CL, saw their double-play combo of Hirokazu Ibata and Masahiro Araki win for the sixth consecutive year.

Ibata, at 34 years 5 months, became the oldest-ever to win at shortstop, while Araki became the outright leader in consecutive selections among second basemen.

Chunichi's Motonobu Tanishige, who had one Golden Glove with the Yokohama BayStars, earned his club-record third since joining the Dragons in 2002. The 21-year veteran didn't make an error in 115 games, becoming the third CL catcher in history to go errorless.

Hiroshima Carp first baseman Kenta Kurihara, a 10-year player, won for the second straight year. The Swallows' Shinya Miyamoto, who won at shortstop six times, picked up his first at third base with 174 votes, the most in either league.

Yakult outfielder Norichika Aoki earned a fourth consecutive selection, the fourth time in his career.


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