Jan 27, 2020

Tsuyoshi Shinjo: Early 2000's Mets Japanese Outfielder (2001/2003)

Tsuyoshi Shinjo was born January 28, 1972 in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He was one of the best defensive center fielders of the 1990's in his native Japan. 

Although he didn't hit for power he was a very popular player due to his antics & good natured personality.

He dyed his hair blonde & red. He would leap in the air with a hop when he caught a ball. Off the field & in the club house, he wore flashy clothes & expensive shoes. On the field he donned colorful wrist bands.

He left Japan and signed with the New York Mets for $200,000 in 2001, turning down a $2 million deal in Japan.

His signing in MLB with the New York Mets, as he was influenced by manager Bobby Valentine. His signing surprised a lot of people. Shinjo played hard for the Mets, winning over the fans as well as his manager -Bobby Valentine. He hustled & always had an positive, upbeat attitude. 

He debuted getting an at bat on Opening Day in Atlanta. In the 10th inning, he singled off Kerry Ligtenberg & scored on Robin Ventura's game winning HR. 

 In the third game of the year he got his first start & that day he drove in his first RBI. On April 9th, he hit his first career HR, it came off Jason Marquis in a 9-4 Mets win over the Braves, at Shea Stadium. On April 13th, he a had three hit day, it came at Shea Stadium in a game against the Cincinnati Reds.

In May he had a career high four RBI game in Colorado helping the Mets to a 10-9 win. On May 20th, he singled off the Dodgers, Terry Adams, in the bottom of the 9th inning scoring Desi Relaford with the game winning walk off run.

In late May, he drove in five runs in a three game set with the Expos in Montreal, helping the Mets with win in two of those games. In June, he had three straight games where he drove in two runs, he would drive in two runs in five of eight games he played in from June 1 to June 12. 

On July 18th, he had another walk off hit, this time scoring Joe McEwing with a double off Vladimir Nunez, to beat the Florida Marlins. His average peaked to .290 late that month, before dropping off. 

Post 911 Game: In the 3rd inning, in the first game after the September 11th attacks, in a game at Pittsburgh against the Pirates, it was Shinjo who drew a bases loaded walk off Todd Ritchie, to drive in the first run on the return.

He had a good rookie debut, making the Topps All Star Rookie team, batting .268 with 10 HRs 23 doubles & 56 RBIs playing in 123 games. 

Trivia: He also made MLB ethnic history becoming the first Japanese born player to bat clean up in an MLB line up.

In the outfield he played in center field (53) games where he posted a perfect .1000 fielding % & in left (46 games) where he was fourth in the league with a eight assists. He also played right field (39 games ) posting a .985 fielding %.

Some people criticized his hot dog style of play as well as his flashy look. He wore big bright orange wrist bands & had fancy wraparound sun glasses. Its too bad the Mets finished third that year at 82-80. 

After the season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants with Desi Relaford for pitcher Sean Estes. He struggled a bit in the Bay Area, batting only .238 with 9 HRs 15 doubles & 37 RBIs in 118 games. 

World Series First: But Shinjo made history again, that season he became the first Japan born player, to play in an MLB World Series. Overall he went 1-6, in three World Series games for the Giants,in their loss to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.

He was released after the Series and got signed by the New York Mets once again for 2003. 

He played in 62 games seeing action in the outfield (54 games) and was used as a pinch hitter. On May 21st, he hit his only HR of the year, coming in a 5-4 win over the Phillies. By mid June his average fell below .200. On June 27th he played his last MLB game, collecting two hits.

He was sent to AAA Norfolk where he hit .324 for the rest of the season.

After only 62 games he hit .193 with one HR & 7 RBIs. He ended his big league career with 202 hits, 41 doubles, 20 HRs, 100 RBIs & a .245 batting average in 303 games.

Retirement: He went back to play in Japan & had some solid seasons before retiring in 2006. He played on many losing teams in Japan, but in his final season, his Nippon Ham Fighters won the Championship. 

The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he took the field in the last inning, and the team carried him off the field in victory when it was over.

Overall in Japan, he won nine gold gloves & made three Best Nine teams. 

Japan Celebrity: After baseball, Shinjo became a TV celebrity in Japan. He is also a model for his own clothing line. There is a coffee drink named for him as well. Shinjo won ten million Yen on the Japan version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

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