There are four minor Major League managers younger than Kosuke Fukudome, who finished up his final professional season in 2022.
The 45-year-old came over to the states in 2008 at the age of 31, ready to make his impact as a spry young rookie. Having already risen to the highest heights of Nippon Professional Baseball, Fukudome came to America looking for a challenge in ending baseball’s longest title drought.
He was unfortunately unable to end that long standing curse, but in 2008, he helped propel the Chicago Cubs to their first back-to-back playoff appearances in a century (their last coming in 1907 and 1908).
Fukudome made his mark on Opening Day that season, going 3-for-3 and crushing a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning to knot the contest up at three against Eric Gagne. Trips wild.
That year he started at center field in the All-Star game and placed sixth in Rookie of the Year voting. Casual stuff for a 31-year-old.
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Defying age, Fukudome went back to Japan at 36 after the 2012 season and continued to play for another decade, mentoring a new generation of Japanese stars.
He continued to dominate NPB’s Central League with the Hanshin Tigers well into his 40s, slashing .280/.389/.454 at age-41. With the 2022 finally winding down, Fukudome finally called it quits, although he still managed to get one hit as a 45-year-old in 2022 for the Chunichi Dragons.
His wonderful career spanned three decades from 1999-2022, finishing with 334 home runs, 2519 hits and a slashline of .279/.375/.462.
Beloved wherever he went, Fukudome’s life in baseball almost certainly won’t end this year.
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