#MLBPlayers411 | Norichika Aoki
Norichika Aoki (青木 宣親) is not only today's #MLBPlayers411 but he is the newest member of Japan's Golden Players Club.
With a sixth-inning single in the Astros' 12-6 loss to the Angels on Sunday, Nori reached 717 career hits in the major leagues which combines with his 1,284 total hits in the Nippon Professional Baseball league to give him 2,000 hits combined between the two leagues and enshrinement in the club, known as Meikyukai.
Players who reach the 2,000-hit plateau and become members of the club receive a special jacket to commemorate their accomplishment.
“Once I got my 2,000th hit, it brought back memories of my very first professional hit,” Aoki said following Sunday's game. “It kind of made me look back, and the passion I have for baseball still hasn't changed.”
In addition to receiving a coveted jacket, Nori's Astros teammates rewarded him with an oversized bottle of wine.
A pitcher throughout junior high and high school, Nori moved to the outfield when he played collegiately at Waseda University in Tokyo. Before breaking into the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, Nori played seven seasons in the NPB with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
After seeing little playing time in his season with the Swallows, Nori exploded to win Central League Rookie of the Year in 2005, leading all Central League players in batting (.344) and hits. Over the course of his NPB career Nori appeared in seven All-Star games (two of which he won MVP honors), won the Best Nine Award seven times, a Golden Glove Award six times and won the Central League batting championship three times. He's the only player in NPB history to twice get more than 200 hits in a season.
Nori made the jump to the major leagues in the 2011-12 offseason after the Brewers won his posting rights. In his rookie season, Nori set the Brewers' rookie doubles record (37). After two seasons with Milwaukee, Nori was traded to Kansas City where he batted leadoff for the eventual American League Champions. Nori hit his first-career grand slam that season on Aug. 6, 2014.
Prior to the 2015 season, Nori signed with the Giants, the team that had beaten his Royals team in the World Series. Despite a broken right fibula as a result of getting hit by a pitch that cost him 28 games, he batted .287 with five home runs, 26 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
After another solid year with the Seattle Mariners (.283/.349/.388), Nori was claimed off waivers by Houston at the start of the offseason.
In addition to playing in the NPB and MLB, Nori has also played internationally on the biggest of stages. He played for the Japanese national team in the 2007 Asian Baseball Championship, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009, 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics.
Check out some photos of Norichika here.
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