Keizo Kawashima

Coach Keizo

Keizo Kawashima, a cheerful durable 171-centimeter infielder who played 886 career games over a 15-year career in which he played 100 in a season just three times, is now done with playing but not done with baseball.

His remarkable little career ended in 2022 with the Rakuten Eagles, whom he signed on to coach with in 2023.

After a year coaching in the minors, Kawashima is now one of the Eagles’ major league batting coaches under first-year skipper Toshiaki Imae, who started on the farm last season with Kawashima before a mid-season promotion sent him to Sendai.

Kawashima was a guy who was twice traded as part of multi-player deals and In January, 2008, Kawashima was part of a six-player swap that sent him from the Nippon Ham Fighters to the Yakult Swallows.

The five other players in that trade would go on to play 617 more games in Japan’s majors. Kawashima would play 852 more. Just prior to the 2014 trading deadline, he was sent in a four-player deal to the SoftBank Hawks. The other three players would play 99 more games. Kawashima would play 453 more.

In terms of career win shares, Kawashima would produce 52 more after his trade to the Swallows, the other five guys combined for 69. Kawashima would then create 64 percent of the remaining career value from the four-player deal to the Hawks.

When the Hawks ran out of outfielders during COVID, Kawashima was there playing for the first time in his career, and one day, he was put in the cleanup spot and drove in the winning run. On the hero interview podium, Yuki Yanagita, who occasionally has some interesting ones, said he wanted to learn to be a player like Kawashima.

So not having seen him since before COVID, it was a great pleasure to catch up with him Sunday at Tokyo Dome.

“I like working with manager Imae,” Kawashima said. “He’s a good guy, and absolutely love coaching.”

Like other coaches I’ve talked to recently, they are extremely aware that the coach’s role within the Japanese baseball ecosystem has changed.

“It’s so much different than it used to be,” he said. “I’m learning to be a better communicator. It’s important, where as back in the day it was not such a big thing. The coaches told the players what to do and they did it.”

“The old way, though, had it’s good points. In particular, the old way was for coaches to get on you all the time, and in my case that helped me build up my strength. Now, looking back, I’m grateful for that.”

With players having so much access to information, Kawashima worried that some might wander down the wrong road.

“Everybody’s body is unique, so just copying someone else and trying to emulate what they do can lead to trouble,” he said. “But there is a lot of good information out there and if players choose wisely, I sometimes wonder if coaches are even needed now.”

Subscribe to weekly newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.