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Munetaka Murakami
Gk ryoIMG 5603.jpg
Murakami with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Tokyo Yakult Swallows – No. 55
Infielder
Born: February 2, 2000 (2000-02-02) (age 21)
Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Right
debut
September 16, 2018, for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Career statistics
(through 2020 season)
Batting average .263
Runs batted in 184
Home runs 65
Teams
  • Tokyo Yakult Swallows (2018–present)
Career highlights and awards
  • 2x NPB All-Star (2019, 2021)
  • 2019 Central League Rookie of the Year

Munetaka Murakami (村上 宗隆 , Murakami Munetaka, born February 2, 2000 in Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan) is a Japanese professional baseball infielder for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Early Baseball Career

Munetaka started playing baseball at the early age of 5. He entered Kyushū Gakuin Integrated High School where he became their team's regular first baseman and clean-up hitter. They made it to the 2015 Koshien national tournaments in his first year, but got defeated in the first round. He then played catcher in his 2nd and 3rd year, but they did not make it to any national tournaments. He hit a total of 52 home runs in high school, and his slugging prowess earned him the nickname "Babe Ruth of Higo", Higo being the former name of Kumamoto Prefecture.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows

Despite not getting a lot of media exposure from appearances in national games, he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NPB Draft by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Yomiuri Giants and the Rakuten Golden Eagles, as an alternative pick after they lost Kōtarō Kiyomiya to the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Swallows won the lottery, and signed him for a contract of 80 million yen and a 7.2 million yen annual salary. He was assigned jersey number 55.

2018

He spent most of the season playing in Eastern League (minors) games. He batted at .311 in 28 games until the end of April, with 3 home runs and 20 RBI. In June, he got awarded League MVP of the month for batting 0.315 and driving in 14 runs, last accomplished by a Swallows rookie in 2011 by Tetsuto Yamada. He also got voted into the Fresh All Star games in July. He continued to play well in the following months, and finally got the chance to play in the main squad on the September 16 game against the Carps. He debuted as the starting 3rd baseman, and hit a home run on his first at-bat. But after failing to record a hit in his next 5 appearances, he was sent back to the farm and ended the season there. He finished with a batting average of 0.288, 17 home runs, 70 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in the minors. Post-season, he was awarded both the Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, and was given a 800,000 yen pay rise, bringing his annual salary to 8 million yen.

2019

2019 was Murakami's break out season. On February 27, he was selected to play for Japan national baseball team at the 2019 exhibition games against Mexico. His great performance during the pre-season exhibition games earned him the 3rd base spot in the season-opener. This made him the youngest Swallows player to start in the season opening game at 19 years old, beating the previous record of 21 year-old Seikichi Nishioka in 1958. He hit his 10th home run by May 10, and managed to secure the clean up position by May 12. He got voted into his first All-Star Game in July where he got top votes for 3rd base, and was also selected for the Home Run Derby showdown. On August 12, he hit his first walk-off home run against the Baystars and became the youngest NPB player to achieve this feat. He hit his 30th home run by August 22, and became the first Central League player drafted out of high school to notch at least 30 home runs within 2 years from his debut. On September 4, he broke the NPB RBI record of high school drafted players in their 2nd season by notching his 87th RBI. He was the only Swallows player to appear in all of the team's 143 games, and despite batting at only 0.231, he topped the team in home runs with 36 which tied the NPB home-run record for 2nd-year rookies, and finished 2nd in RBI with 96. On the other hand, he set a new league worst strikeout count amongst Japanese players with 184. His performance earned him the 2019 CL Rookie of the year award, and a 37 million pay rise which more than quadrupled his previous salary to 45 million yen.

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