Saturday, March 8, 2014

TTM Return: BIG HIROK!!!!

A return from my favorite pitcher of all-time, BIG MOTHERLOVING HIROK!

Received On: 3/8/2014

Hiroki Kuroda was born on February 10th, 1975 in Osaka, Japan.
His father Kazuhiro was a former outfielder/infielder for various professional baseball teams in Japan. Most notably the Nankai Hawks (currently the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks). His mother Yasuko Kuroda was an Olympic athlete who competed in the 1964 Summer Olympics in the shot put competition.

As a child, Big Hirok was on his father's "All Suminoe" little league team. He thrived and later went to Uenomiya High School (a semi-prestigious baseball school). During summer camp he was tortured and worked to exhaustion. The coaches made his run laps around the baseball field everyday from before the sun came up until it was past midnight (4 AM to 1 AM) without any breaks or any food or water. Kuroda's friends had to sneak him some leftover food and water while the coaches weren't looking. When it rained he still had to keep running and even resorted to drinking out of mud puddles to keep himself hydrated.
*Note, this kind of "training" was normal in Japan for a good chunk of the 20th century*
After graduating from high school he went to Senshu University. There he was treated MUCH better and noticed how a scout sent out by the Hiroshima Carp organization would come all the way to the baseball field to file reports on future draft candidates on a semi-frequent basis. Apparently the baseball field where they practiced was located in a pretty far-off location and Kuroda admired how the Hiroshima Carp were dedicated enough to send scouts there.
After graduating from Senshu, he was drafted by the Hiroshima Carp in the second round of the 1996 NPB player draft. Or rather, he chose to be drafted by the Carp. According to Kuroda's autobiography 決めて断つ (Kimete Tatsu) some of the elite college draftees were allowed to pick the team they wanted to be drafted by (at least back then they could) and Kuroda chose to be drafted by the Carp. Kuroda made his NPB debut on April 25th, 1997 and spent the next 11 seasons pitching for the Carp, earning several accolades along the way.
Kuroda came to the majors in late 2007 after signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his MLB debut on April 4th, 2008 against the San Diego Padres, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and earned his first MLB victory.
Kuroda signed with the New York Yankees in late 2011. Despite coming from the pitcher-friendly National League West to the hitter-friendly American League East, he had himself a career year in 2012. He was the Yankees's ace in 2012 and most of 2013. Hopefully he'll be their ace again in 2014 (stick a fork in CC, he's done).

Received On 3/8/2014

When I send out TTM requests I (more often than not) send along another card (of either the player himself or their favorite player growing up) for them to keep as a small thank you gift. And Kuroda was no exception as I sent him the 2001 BBM card above. Instead of keeping the card he generously signed it for me and sent it back. Although the autograph is kind of smudged, it's still a Big Hirok auto and that's all that matters.

I could go on and on about Big Hirok (especially his Carp and Dodgers days that I kinda brushed over) but I'll end it here and save some of the more interesting topics for future posts.
In the meantime I can say, without a doubt, that this will be my number 1 return in all of 2014.

Thanks for reading and, as always, take care :).

TTM Goal Countdown: 30


  1. Replies
    1. I agree. I had reservations about sending a Topps Archives card but I didn't have any Heritage or A&G cards of Kuroda so I went with the Archives.

    2. The fact that he used black (which he did for me as well), it pops really nicely against your card. Nice cardstock for signatures too.

    3. Yeah out of all the options I had, the Archives was the best one as far as cardstock goes. Even though I've criticized it in the past.