Lenn Sakata
Lenn Sakata.jpg
Second baseman
Born: (1954-06-08) June 8, 1954 (age 67)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 21, 1977, for the Milwaukee Brewers
Last MLB appearance
June 28, 1987, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average.230
Home runs25
Runs batted in109
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Lenn Haruki Sakata (born June 8, 1954) is an American former professional baseball player who played in the Major Leagues primarily as a utility player from 1977 to 1987 and was a member of the Baltimore Orioles 1983 World Series Championship team. He was the second Asian American to play Major League Baseball.[1] He is Yonsei (fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry).[2] Sakata graduated from Kalani High School in 1971. Sakata played college baseball for the Gonzaga Bulldogs of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.[3]

Sakata was acquired by the Orioles from the Brewers for John Flinn on December 6, 1979.[4] He began 1981 as a reserve and missed time in May due to a sprained ankle. In September, he took over the shortstop position, replacing longtime Oriole shortstop Mark Belanger.[5][6] Sakata was humble about this, saying, "I never looked at myself as the next Mark Belanger. It would have been pointless and arrogant for anybody to feel that way." He was the starting shortstop for the Orioles when Cal Ripken, Jr., began his consecutive games played streak. When manager Earl Weaver decided to shift Ripken to short at the beginning of July, 1982, he moved Sakata to second, keeping Sakata in the lineup.[7]

Sakata is remembered in Orioles lore during the 1983 pennant race when he substituted to play catcher, a position he had not played since childhood, in the tenth inning of the August 24, 1983 game at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. The Orioles had replaced their starting catcher and his backup while rallying to tie the game in the ninth inning. Three Toronto Blue Jays hitters reached first base; each one took a big lead, thinking it would be easy to steal a base on Sakata. Tippy Martinez proceeded to pick each Blue Jays base runner off first base. Sakata then hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth to win the game.[8]

After his playing career ended, Sakata began coaching in the minor league system. He has served as manager of the Modesto A's (1989), San Jose Giants (1999, 2001, 2004–2007), Bakersfield Blaze (2000), and Fresno Grizzlies (2002). On May 31, 2007 Sakata notched his 527th victory as a California League manager, setting the record for lifetime wins.[9] Sakata became the farm team manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan in 2008.[10] He returned to American baseball in 2011, becoming the hitting coach for Asheville Tourists (Low-A). After managing the Modesto Nuts from 2012-2013, Sakata rejoined the San Jose Giants in 2014 and was succeeded on January 10, 2015 by Russ Morman taking over as manager beginning the 2015 season.[11] In 2020, Sakata was named the new manager of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.[12] Sakata has returned to the San José Giants for the 2021 season.

Sakata was selected by CNN Sports Illustrated as one of the 50 greatest sports figures in Hawaii's history[13] and is a member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame located in the Bishop Museum. Sakata is also a member of Gonzaga University's Sports Hall of Fame. In 2018 he was inducted to the California League Hall of Fame for his success as a manager.

References

  1. ^ Seattle Mariners' Manager Sees Chance to Highlight his Past NY Times, December 27, 2008
  2. ^ Costello, Rory (2009). "The Baseball Biography Project: Lenn Sakata". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  3. ^ "Gonzaga University Baseball Players Who Made It to the Major Leagues". Baseball-Almanac.com. Archived from the original on 12 July 2004. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  4. ^ Baltimore Orioles 1980 Information Guide (Lenn Sakata profile on pages 145 & 146). Retrieved October 29, 2020
  5. ^ Rosenfeld, p. 44
  6. ^ "Lenn Sakata 1981 Batting Gamelogs". Sports Reference, LLC. Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  7. ^ Rosenfeld, p. 70
  8. ^ Klingaman, Mike (August 4, 2017). "Catching up with ... former Orioles infielder Lenn Sakata". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  9. ^ "Sakata Winningest Manager in California League History". Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-28.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Lefton, Brad (June 16, 2009). "Lenn Sakata doesn't expect to see more Japanese-American managers any time soon". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  11. ^ Sakata returns to San Jose dugout
  12. ^ "Volcanoes introduce new coaching staff for 2020 season". Keizertimes. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  13. ^ "The 50 Greatest Hawaii Sports Figures". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-09-14.

Rosenfeld, Harvey (1995). Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr., Story. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-13524-6.