Pack Animal: 2004 BBM Rookie Edition (Japanese)

I took a vacation day on Monday, was running some errands and I almost – ALMOST – gave into temptation and stopped at Target or Five Below to buy a repack… then my “inner mom” reminded me that “You’ve got plenty of unopened packs at home!”

As always, Inner Mom was right. Among the packs I have are a bunch of Japanese packs that I bought at The National the last time it was in Baltimore… which was what – 2012? 2013? All along I intended to pace myself with these packs, but to be honest I pace myself way too much with these.

So this pack, as the wrapper says, is the 2004 BBM Rookie Edition…

In this case, “Rookie” implies two things: 1) I’m thinking this pack will be “gaijin-free” (i.e. none of the players will be from outside of Japan), and 2) Rookie-based sets always have their share of busts. Long story short, I’ll be surprised if I know any of these players.

But it’s an unopened pack, which is what I wanted, and it’s Japanese so every card is automatically regarded as “cool” and goes in my Japanese binder.

Here’s the back of the pack…

And… Let’s rip!

First card: Atsushi Fujimoto of the Hanshin Tigers.

Interesting design, I’ll say that much.

When I Googled on Fujimoto’s name, my first hit was a LinkedIn profile — Not an encouraging sign regarding this guy’s baseball fame… but as I’d find out through other sources, he played for the Tigers up until 2009, and then put in a few more years with the Swallows. Wikipedia says he was on the Bronze-medal-winning 2004 Olympic team.

The card back is pretty typically BBM.

Next card… Masaya Shibata of the BlueWave… and a different card design.

Given that he’s wearing a shirt and tie under his jersey, and given that I can’t find out anything about him through my usual internetty searches, I’m guessing this is a sort of “draft pick” card and he never actually played in NPB. Maybe one of my NPB-fluent readers can fill us in on the details.

Since the back is different, I’ll show that as well.

Next up, another possible draft pick card – even the same pose – for Satoshi Yamazaki of the Lions.

My knowledge of Japanese language and culture is what we in the IT trade would categorize as “knowing just enough to be dangerous”… but the first thing I thought of when I saw the raised fist was “Ganbatte!”… but I think that’s more something encouraging one would say to another (i.e. “good luck” or “try your best”) rather than a sort of “battle cry”.

Maybe I’m giving someone in Japan a good chuckle with my “close but no cigar” knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Anyway…

Yamazaki put in four years with the Lions and played in the now-extinct Hawaii Winter Baseball League in 2006.

Ryota Katsuki of the Buffaloes, also with the fist in the air. This is definitely a “thing”.

Katsuki put in 12 seasons with the Buffaloes, BlueWave and Giants. He may still be active, but if he is it’s not in NPB… or the top level of NPB, I’ve never been clear whether the “minor league” teams are considered part of NPB (or to put it in American terms, whether NPB refers to the “Majors” or to “affiliated professional baseball”).

Yoshinori Ogata of the Carp.

A few years ago I got a few Carp games on my local cable, part of some international sports “fill up broadcast time” package. I watched enough that I almost became a Carp fan. I miss those games, they were a lot of fun to watch.

Ogata played from 2004 to 2009, but has no stats from 2006 and 2008, and only one game from 2009. Either he was in the minors, or he was injured, or both.

Another card with the same design as the first one. Ryota Igarashi… Wait a minute, I know this dude… He used to pitch for my New York Mets!

He also pitched a handful of games for the Jays and Yankees in 2012. This card by itself is worth the price of admission. Before coming to the States, Igarashi pitched for the Swallows from 1999 to 2009. After his stint in MLB and AAA baseball, he went back to Japan, signed with the SoftBank Hawks, and is still active. How ’bout that? (The prior sentence is said in my best Mel Allen “This Week In Baseball” voice).

I have more to say about his MLB stint, but I’ll leave it for the end of the post, just to keep from going off on too much of a tangent.

Getting back to the BBM card, I noticed that this card says “1998 Rookie” on the bottom… and I went back and looked at the first card and it says “2001 Rookie”, so this is obviously a subset honoring past rookies, where the shirt-and-tie, fist-in-the-air cards must be the true rookies of the set.

Final card, and it looks insert-y…

The left edge and the “2001 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR” logo are gold foil. Norihiro Akahoshi played for the Tigers from 2001 to 2009, and Wikipedia provides me with some other honors besides Central League ROY… He lead the league in stolen bases from 2001 to 2005, was named to the Central League “Best Nine” from 2003 to 2005 and won 6 Golden Glove awards (if I can count correctly). Wikipedia’s entry sounds like he had to retire after suffering neck and spinal injuries in 2009.

I’ll show the insert card’s back to wrap up the pack.

Before I go, I’d like to touch on Ryota Igarashi and his time with the Mets. I was going to scan one of his cards from his two years with the Mets and was surprised to find that there are none. Nada. Zilch. Bupkus. Bugger-all. Yes, he was a reliever, but he made 79 appearances over two seasons and it doesn’t seem like Topps to completely ignore the opportunity to have a rookie card, even if in the Update set. Perhaps he never signed a contract with Topps.

His Mets career also coincided with my just getting started in custom cards, so I don’t have any customs to share either… but I did save some images from that period, so I’ll use my handy dandy all-purpose 2017 TSR Fauxback design to rectify the situation.