The Hattori Hanzo of bat makers will no longer be plying his special trade. After fifty years, Isokazu Kubota, Japan’s greatest crafter of baseball lumber, has announced that he is stepping down.
The 70-year-old Kubota began his career as a bat maker in 1965 with Japan’s Mizuno Technics Corp. Over the next five decades, he would craft bats for a number of baseball legends, including Pete Rose, Japanese superstar Hiromitsu Ochiai, and Transpacific stars Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
Kubota made the bats that helped ex-big leaguer Randy Bass win a triple crown in Japan. He made the bats that helped Matsui win the World Series MVP with the Yankees in 2009.
Matsui spoke glowingly of Kubota’s skills, saying “I’m proud to have used Kubota-san’s bats in every at-bat of every game of my pro career.[Kubota] satisfied my requests 100 percent for 20 years until my retirement.”
Though Kubota himself is stepping down, the skills that he brought to bat making will live on through his proteges. “These are more than products, they are essential tools that influence the results players get,” Kubota told the men who will carry on his tradition.