WBSC Premier12 star Hayato Sakamoto reaches NPB 2,000-hit milestone with Tokyo Giants

WBSC Premier12 star Hayato Sakamoto reaches NPB 2,000-hit milestone with Tokyo Giants
13/11/2020
Sakamoto was the starting shortstop for the Japan National Team in both editions of the WBSC Premier12. He will lead the Tokyo Giants in the 2020 Japan Series.

The Tokyo Giants have one more reason to celebrate their second consecutive Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Central League pennant. Their star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who also is the starting shortstop for the Japan National Team, became just the 53rd player in the history of NPB to connect for 2,000 hits.

Sakamoto, 31, hit a double off the Yakult Swallows pitcher Albert Suarez in the first inning of Sunday's (9 November) game to reach the milestone. Before the game was over, Sakamoto added a home run and a single to take his career total to 2,002.

Former Yomiuri Giants greats Sadaharu Oh, Masahiro Tanaka and Koji Uehara all encouraged Sakamoto to set his next goal at 3,000 hits.

New York Yankee legend and current part-owner of the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball (MLB) Derek Jeter also sent a video message to congratulate Sakamoto on the milestone.

Only one player in NPB history retired with over 3,000 hits: Isao Harimoto, a left-handed outfielder of Korean descent who reached the milestone during the 1980 season at age 40 and finished his career with a total of 3,085.

Sakamoto has been a Samurai Japan National Team regular since 2012. He was the starting shortstop at the 2015 and 2019 WBSC Premier12 as well as the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

He went 8-for-26 with a .308 batting average while flashing the leather at shortstop for the 2019 WBSC Premier12 Champions Japan. He started seven games, including the final against Korea.

In 2015, Sakamoto accomplished another milestone, hitting the first home run of the inaugural WBSC Premier12.

3,000?

Sakamoto will celebrate his 40th birthday in December 2028. He would need to average 125 hits per season to reach the milestone in 2028. He has 118 hits over 114 games in 2020 but has never gone below 150 from 2016 to 2019.

Sakamoto has spent his whole professional career with the Yomiuri Giants. He helped them win the 2009 and 2012 Japan Series. Sakamoto was the 2019 Central League MVP and the 2016 batting Champion. He appeared in 11 All-Star Games.

Sakamoto's Giants will face the winner of the series between the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the Chiba Lotte Mariners in the 2020 Japan Series that opens on 21 November.