MLB, to underwear model, back to baseball

Tsuyoshi Shinjo is back in baseball at 48 years old

December 7th, 2020

When was the last time you thought about Tsuyoshi Shinjo?

If you were a Mets or Giants fan during the early-2000's, you might think about him every day. If you weren't following baseball at all during those years, then you probably have no idea who I'm talking about.

In his all too brief three-year MLB career, Shinjo accomplished many things. In 2001, he became the first Japanese-born position player to play in the National League. In '02 with the Giants, he became the first Japanese-born player to appear in a World Series. He slashed a .245/.299/.370 line with 20 homers in 303 big league games. Not exactly ideal, but he always seemed to get hits in big moments. He tied Hall of Famer Mike Piazza with 11 game-winning RBIs in '01. And on defense, he was a star. There's an entire YouTube mixtape devoted to his plays. He threw out any runner who dared run on his orange armband'ed arms:

Shinjo also played with an emotion and flair that immediately made him a fan favorite for both franchises. He had been a full-blown celebrity playing in Japan -- entering stadiums on disco balls and marrying one of the country's top models. Mets assistant GM in charge of international scouting Omar Minaya called him a "heartthrob," the first and only time that word will ever be used in a player scouting report.

Eventually, in 2004, he headed back to play in Japan. Along with winning Japan's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Shinjo won a championship with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in his final season. He was reportedly carried off the field by his teammates.

The 34-year-old Shinjo then embarked on a brand new career: Underwear modeling.

He was the face of Japan's Body Wild underwear company and eventually developed his own clothing line. He hung out with some of America's biggest celebrities.

And now, perhaps unsurprisingly, Shinjo is trying to make a baseball comeback in NPB. He's 48 years old. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI single in tryouts yesterday, running and, most importantly, looking like he hasn't aged a day.

Even though he's a bit overdressed, don't bet against him.