After watching Team Japan win gold in the Olympics with former Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka on the bump, it brought me back.
It brought me back to the times of Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
The times of Byung-ho Park.
What ever happened to them?
Let’s start with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He was 26 when the Minnesota Twins beat out teams like Boston, San Francisco and the LA Dodgers in a bidding war to secure him. He was a hot-ticket item after winning the Japanese Pacific League batting title with a .340+ something batting average.
It felt like we won the lottery. This was around the same time Ricky Rubio was finally coming over for the Timberwolves. It’s like the stars were finally aligning. Then Nick Swisher happened.
Just a week into Nishioka’s first season in the MLB, Swisher was trying to break up a double play and smashed into #1’s leg, breaking it. After missing more than two months, Tsuyoshi came back to bat in the low .200s with an OBP of .278. The next season he was demoted to then-AAA Rochester. At one point he was called back up only to go 0-fer in three games, and the rest is history. He asked to get out of his contract and went back to Japan.
So where is he now?
After his time with the Twins he played for the Hanshin Tigers for six seasons. The Tigers are in the Nippon Professional Baseball which is the highest level of baseball in Japan. It’s the league Tyler Austin plays for now. See previous article.
It appears Tsuyoshi is still playing ball. The 37-year-old is a member of the Tochigi Golden Braves. The Golden Braves compete in the Baseball Challenge League, one of two independent pro leagues in Japan. His jersey is covered with company logos. He is sponsored by a Japanese restaurant called Hikohei.
Also, Nishioka seems to be the Japanese Trevor Plouffe, minus the still playing part. He is very active on his Youtube channel that I have no idea how to get to because it’s all in Japanese.
If interested, hit him up on the gram.
Now to South Korean Byung-ho Park, or Park Bang as he likes to be called.
The guy hit bombs in the highest league in South Korea, so just like with Nishioka, teams were after him. Once again, to the surprise of many Twins fans, Minnesota actually won the bidding war. It was exciting at first but ultimately turned out to be another flop. Park would hit 12 HR in 62 games for the Twins, but he was only batting .191 with a blistering 80 strikeouts. He never would get called back up to the Twins, spent a year in the minors, then opted to head back to the KBO League in South Korea.
Once back home he signed a contract with the Nexen Heroes. He’s actually still with that team today, but they are the Kiwoom Heroes now. He continues to be a strikeout machine... at the plate.
His first year back with the KBO League he did really well though. He batted .345 with an OPS of 1.174 with 43 HR in 113 games. He only struck out 114 times that season which is actually on the low side for him.
At the age of 35, this season he is batting .228 with 10 HR. Best of luck to him.
Two final things:
According to this article Park was not overly fond of the Twins. Check it out to learn more.
Lastly, Park struck out a lot, but now looking at his stats, I wasn’t aware of really how often he went down swinging, or looking. He was the KBO League MVP back-to-back years with 50+ home runs, but in the season right before the Twins signed him, he struck out 161 times! Yeesh, and all these teams thought he would succeed against major league pitching?