Archive > 11 July 2009

New Stadium in Niigata

» 11 July 2009 » In international baseball, sports business » 6 Comments

As one of our readers brought up, Hard Off Eco Stadium opened on July 7th (Japan time) with a two-game series between the Hanshin Tigers and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. This stadium had its challenges in reaching to the point of being able to host an NPB game. The construction of the stadium was been delayed by the World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002 and an earthquake hitting the region in 2004.

The stadium includes an artificial turf field, an indoor practice facility (a much needed indoor bullpen as the weather can be chilly in Niigata), lights for night games, and 30,000 seats in the stands making Hard Off Eco Stadium the biggest baseball stadium in the state.

Many generations will benefit from the new stadium as not only professional games will be played here, but independent league games, high school tournaments, sports festivals are currently scheduled to be hosted at the stadium over the next three months.  Even though risks are involved in a new stadium, structuring a high class stadium in a sports-deprived region should create some buzz and lead to new opportunities for the city.

People will be able to attend a stadium tour taking place four times a day for free, which is a great opportunity to see behind the scenes and the structure of the new stadium. A blog is updated frequently for further details about the stadium. Also the details about the naming rights can be seen on the Niigata prefecture website.

The stadium’s naming sponsor, HARD OFF Corportation, is a second-hand goods chain founded in Niigata in 1993 that currently has 619 franchises around the nation. The second-hand goods chain is active in different areas with the most well-known probably being BOOK-OFF, which sells used books, CDs, DVDs, and video games. HARD OFF corporation already has a partnership relationship with the hometown J-League team Niigata Albirex as an ecology sponsor, so their interest in expanding to the sports industry in nothing new.

Purchasing the naming rights for the first hometown baseball stadium should benefit the corporation, but the real test of the stadium should be after a couple of years when the buzz is gone, but for now it will be interesting how much impact the stadium will bring to this sports-deprived area of the country.

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A Look at Yomiuri’s Import Roster

» 11 July 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

The Yomiuri Giants have had an interesting collection of foreign players on their roster this year. Let’s take a look at them:

Alex Ramirez (OF, Venezuela) Ramirez is in his ninth season, and has accrued enough NPB service time to no longer count against the foreign player limit. Only a few guys have last this long, Tuffy Rhodes being another. Ramirez is having another productive season with a .303 average and 55 rbi, but his numbers aren’t as eye-popping as they were during his MVP season last year. The Giants have taken advantage of his new non-foreign player status by keeping additional import players on the roster.

Seung-Yeop Lee (1B, Korea) Perhaps Korea’s most accomplished hitter, Lee is in the fourth and final year of his contract with the Kyojin-gun. He was dynamite in his first year with the Giants, hitting .323 with 41 home runs, but in the subsequent two years we’ve seen him slip to .274 and 30 and then .248 and 8. Lee’s power has recovered a bit this season, as he has 17 homers through July 11, and though his batting average is still sub-par at .240, he has a respectable .848 ops.

Edgardo Alfonzo (IF, Venezuela) The Giants went to the scrap heap with Alfonzo, and though he made the team out of spring training, he failed to impress in a limited look during the season, hitting just .118 in 38 at-bats. Alfonzo has been with the Giants’ farm team, where he hasn’t played much. There is occasionally news about him practicing with the top team, but I figure it’ll take an injury for him to get another look at this point.

Seth Greisinger (SP, United States) The veteran American lead the Central League in wins the last two seasons, and was rewarded with an opening day start this year. Greisinger hasn’t been quite as good this year as he had been previously, but he’s still one of Japan’s top innings eaters with a 3.66 era through 103 innings pitched so far this year.

Marc Kroon (RP, United States) The Giants poached Kroon from Yokohama prior to last season, and it paid off as he set a new personal best with 41 saves. Note the trend here — Ramirez, Lee, Greisinger and Kroon were all signed after having success with other NPB teams. Kroon has dealt with injury problems this year, but has been solid in limited action with a 1.12 era.

Dicky Gonzalez (SP, Puerto Rico) Gonzales is another guy with previous NPB experience, haven’t spent a few years with Yakult, being a Tommy John veteran coming off a mediocre season, he was more of a reclaimation project coming in this season. Suffice to say that he’s exceeded expectations with an 8-1 record and 2.31 era through 11 starts. He’s gotten by with supreme control, striking out 48 against just six walks. Gonzalez also took the monthly top pitcher award for May.

Wirfin Obispo (SP/RP, Dominican Republic) Obispo has been a small triumph for player development. He came to Japan as an ikusei player, prior to the 2007 season at the age of 23 without significant professional experience. Obispo spent 2007 and 2008 working on his game with the farm team, and was given a chance to pitch at the top level with Kroon down with a hand injury. Obispo has impressed in his recent starts, which will give the Giants something to think about when Kroon comes back.

Adrian Burnside (SP, Australia) After putting up a respectable 3.48 era in 75 innings for the Giants last year, Burnside is buried on the Giants’ farm team, where he’s only made eight appearances.

Levi Romero (RP, Venezuela) Former Houston and Texas farmhand Romero joined the Giants this spring as an ikusei player, and has been promoted to the regular roster, which means he’ll be around until the end of the year. I doubt we’ll see him with the top team this year, but the Giants like his velocity and he’ll get a chance to continue working on his game in Japan.

Lin Yi-Hau (P, Taiwan) and Lee Yi-Fong (P, Taiwan) I have no idea if I’m romanizing these names correctly, but Lee and Lin are a couple of teenagers who signed with the Giants as 15 year-olds. Lin, 18, has made one appearance for the farm team this year, allowing two earned runs in two innings. Lee is still just 16 years old, and doesn’t have any stats I can find.

So we have a tenured NPB veteran, one of Korea’s all-time great hitters, a former MLB all-star on his last legs, a couple of dependable American veterans, a surprising reclamation project, two Latin American development projects, two Taiwanese teenagers, and an Australian lost in the shuffle. Interesting group of guys.

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Trying Out a New Justin.tv Feature

» 11 July 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

I was at work late last night, and while I missed Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter, I did get to see a little of the Hiroshima-Chunichi game online. Justin.tv has a feature that allows you to archive what you’re watching and come back to it later. I tried with the game last night and it seems to be working.

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