Travis Ishikawa’s career-defining moment came in the 2014 NLCS when he sent the San Francisco Giants to the World Series with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth (David J. Phillip/ Associated Press).
Travis Ishikawa is #13 on the Keizertimes list of greatest Volcanoes players of all time. The six-foot-three first baseman played for seven teams in his Major League career and won two World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants.
Ishikawa grew up in Washington and was a standout player at Federal Way High School, leading his team to a state title in 2001. He was drafted in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft by the San Francisco Giants in 2002.
Ishikawa had an offer to play baseball at Oregon State University, but the Giants gave him a $955,000 signing bonus to dissuade him from attending OSU. At the time, the bonus was the highest ever for a non-first-round player.
After starting the season in the Arizona Rookie League, Ishikawa was moved up to the Volcanoes roster in 2002. In 23 games, Ishikawa hit .307 and had 17 RBIs.
Ishikawa got the rare chance to return to Salem-Keizer in 2003. He spent the first part of the seasons in full-season A-ball with the Hagerstown Suns, but was then demoted to the Volcanoes. Ishikawa batted .254 in his second stint with the Volcanoes with three homers and 31 RBIs.
Ishikawa went back to Hagerstown in 2004 and then was advanced to high-A ball later that season with the San Jose Giants. He spent all of the 2005 season in San Jose, where he began to develop as one of the best prospects in San Francisco’s system. Ishikawa hit .282 and led the team with 22 homers. He also had 79 RBIs and 87 runs scored, helping San Jose win the California League Championship.
After attending spring training with San Francisco, Ishikawa was sent to Double-A with the Connecticut Defenders. However, when Giants first baseman Lance Niekro — who was also a former Volcano player — was placed on the bereavement list, Ishikawa was called up to the Giants on April 18, 2006. He got his first MLB hit the following day before being sent back down to Double-A.
But on May 26, 2006, Ishikawa was recalled to the big leagues and, in his first career start, wound up having a day to remember. With three hits, two doubles and three RBIs, Ishikawa led the Giants to the 9-0 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Ishikawa spent most of the 2006 season in Double-A, but in his three short stints with the Giants, he batted .292 in 12 games.
Ishikawa started the 2007 back in Double-A, playing 48 games for the Defenders before suffering a knee injury. He was sent back to San Jose to rehab and remained there for the rest of the season, batting .268 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs in 56 games. Ishikawa also hit two clutch homers in the playoffs, allowing him to win his second California League title with San Jose.
Ishikawa was back to full health for the 2008 season, and it showed. He hit .291 with eight homers and 48 RBIs in 64 games with the Defenders, then hit .310 with 16 bombs and 46 RBIs with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies before getting called back up to the Giants in August. Ishikawa held the starting first base job for the remainder of the season, batting .274 with 12 runs scored, 26 hits, six doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Ishikawa retained his job as the starting first baseman in 2009 and had one of the best seasons of his career. In 120 games, Ishikawa batted .261 with 49 runs scored, 85 hits, 10 doubles, nine home runs and 39 RBIs. He had the fifth best batting average for batting at home (.349) in the National League (NL). Ishikawa also had the third highest field percentage in the NL (.996).
However, in 2010, after the Giants signed Aubrey Huff, Ishikawa ended up spending much of the year pinch-hitting and entering the game late as a defensive replacement. However, later in the season, Huff began platooning in right field with two other outfielders. When Huff played the outfield, Ishikawa would get the start at first.
In 158 at-bats, Ishikawa batted .266 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 116 games. One of his big highlights of the season was hitting his first career grand slam off Rockies ace Ubaldo Jiménez on July 3, 2010.
San Francisco won their first NL West Division championship since 2003 to qualify for the postseason. While Ishikawa didn’t get much action in the first two playoff series’, his clutch pinch-hit RBI-double in game one of the World Series propelled the Giants to an 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers.
In game four of the World Series, Ishikawa got his first postseason start. The Giants went on to win the game 4-0 and clinched the series the following day — it was San Francisco’s first World Series title since 1954.
Ishikawa, however, was optioned to Triple-A in 2011. He wound up spending most of the year on the disabled list after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Giants released him after the season.
Ishikawa signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2012 season. He had his first multi-homer game on May 15, 2012 against the New York Mets. But Ishikawa had to return to the disabled later in the month. In 94 games (152 at-bats), he hit .257 with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
In 2013, Ishikawa signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but only appeared in six games before being released. He was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees and played in just one game before his release.
The Chicago White Sox were the third team to pick up Ishikawa that season. But he never suited up for the Sox, as he spent his time in the organization with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
Ishikawa strongly considered retirement after the 2013 season, but elected to try and find a job for 2014. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and made the team’s opening day roster, but was released early in the season after batting just .206 with one homer in 15 games.
The Giants took advantage by signing their former draft pick to a minor league deal — which ended up paying dividends for San Francisco later in the year.
Ishikawa spent three months in the minors before joining the Giants roster on July 29, 2014, due to an injury to San Francisco’s regular first baseman Brandon Belt. Belt returned to the team in late September. Instead of being used as a reserve, the Giants elected to have Ishikawa play left field after injuries to two of their outfielders.
Even though he was a career first baseman, Ishikawa started in left field for San Francisco for the entire 2014 postseason.
In the 2014 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ishikawa was the unexpected hero on multiple occasions.
Ishikawa went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the Giants 3-0 game one victory. Then, in game three, Ishikawa’s three-run double was the deciding factor in the Giants 5-4 win. In game five, Ishikawa came through with one of the most historical hits in MLB history.
In the bottom of the ninth, with the game tied 3-3, Ishikawa launched a three-run walk-off homer off of Cardinals all-star Michael Wacha to send the Giants to their third World Series in five seasons. It was the first time in NLCS history that a series ended with a home run.
Ishikawa went 5-for-13 in the NLCS with seven RBIs. He would go on to win his second World Series ring as the Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in seven games.
Ishikawa’s last Major League season was in 2015. He appeared in only six games with the Giants before being released. He finished up the year with the Pirates and hit .224 with a homer and eight RBIs in 38 games.