Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS 2003 Hiroshima 136 514 77 161 32 1 25 75 43 118 3 4 .313 .369 .525 .894 2004 Hiroshima 134 542 91 154 31 1 23 85 52 139 2 2 .284 .347 .472 .819 2005 Hanshin 137 560 98 162 38 1 19 85 46 145 1 2 .289 .344 .463 .807 2006 Hanshin 143 580 87 180 31 1 19 75 42 120 0 0 .310 .355 .466 .821 2007 Hanshin 132 498 60 121 20 0 9 54 33 104 0 2 .243 .292 .337 .629 NPB Career 682 2694 413 778 152 4 95 374 216 626 6 10 .289 .342 .454 .796
Andrew Mark Sheets was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 19, 1971. He attended St. Amant High School (Louisiana) and went on to Tulane and finally Louisiana State University. He was selected by the Seattle Mariners in Round 4 (110th overall) of the 1992 draft.
Sheets made his big league debut at age 24 with the Seattle Mariners on April 22, 1996. He pinch hit and went 0-2, playing second base. He would record his first hit and RBI in his next game on April 24 against the White Sox.
Much of his MLB career (which included stints with Seattle, San Diego, Anaheim, Boston and Tampa Bay) was spent playing shortstop. He did, however, play at second and third base as well. He was part of the 1997 AL West champion Mariners and the 1998 National League pennant-winning Padres. On the whole, though, his major league career never resulted in full-time playing time or long-term contracts with teams, and eventually he ended up signing with the Hiroshima Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League.
Though the Carp were looking to shore up their awful defense by acquiring Sheets, he committed 14 errors in his debut season, but also made some great plays. More than with his glove, though, Sheets made an impact with his bat, launching a walk off home run against the Yomiuri Giants in June, and eventually supplanting the struggling Takahiro Arai as cleanup hitter in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately, his stint with the Carp did not last very long. In the 2004 offseason, he asked for a minimum two-year, $3.5M deal from Hiroshima, and they did not accept his terms, so he was released. Hanshin, who lost out in the bidding war for free agent Tyrone Woods (who signed with Chunichi), then had to outbid the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for Sheets’ services, giving him two years and $4M plus performance bonuses.
Tigers manager Akinobu Okada believed that if Sheets could play shortstop with dexterity, that he could handle any infield position, and converted him to first base. The move turned out to be brilliant, as Sheets won three consecutive Golden Gloves at the position. He also batted third in the order most of the first year, ahead of Tomoaki Kanemoto, and the move worked well. Sheets hit 19 home runs (the same number Kanemoto hit in his first season with the team batting #3) and had 85 RBIs that first year, contributing to the team’s second pennant in three years. The individual highlight of Sheets’ year came on July 26, when he hit three home runs in one game against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
Sheets made his first (and only) all-star appearance in 2006, finishing the year with 180 hits – good for 6th (now tied for 7th) best total in team history. He started out 2007 strongly, with hits in the team’s first 10 games, but then fell into a serious slump. He was sent down to the farm team and not called up again until starting third baseman Makoto Imaoka got injured and deactivated. Upon Imaoka’s return, Sheets shifted back over to first base. He won a third Golden Glove, but put up the worst offensive numbers of his 5-year career. Stating high salary and age as reasons for his dismissal, the Tigers released him at season’s end. He expressed no desire to play for any other club than the Hanshin Tigers, so despite offers from other teams, Sheets retired that year.
The Tigers reciprocated the feelings of loyalty to Sheets by making him a permanent scout in America starting in April 2009. It was Sheets’ keen eye for talent that ‘discovered’ Matt Murton, who signed with the club at the end of 2009 and proceeded to set an NPB record for most hits in a season (214) the next year. This would be enough to keep Sheets employed by the team since then. He has been joined by Jeff Williams as US scout a few years later. The tandem has helped the team pick up other strong players such as Mauro Gomez.