Category > amateur baseball

Stars of Summer Koshien

» 21 August 2011 » In amateur baseball, Koshien » 4 Comments

Now that the 93rd National High School Baseball Championship, or Summer Koshien, has concluded, it’s time to take a look at the players who shined on high school baseball’s biggest stage.

As you may recall, there were many standouts from the Spring Tournament, which was won by Kanagawa Prefecture’s Tokaidai Sagami. The spring champs, however, didn’t make it into the field of 49 finalists.

Nichidai San, who represents West Tokyo (East and West are split in the tournament), came close to titles in both Spring 2010 and 2011 (finalists and semi-finalists, respectively). They were finally crowned champions on Saturday.

Sanko, as they are known, were one of only three teams in the field given the highest pre-tournament rating by all three sports dailies polled (Hochi (Yomiuri), Nikkan Sports and Sponichi). They were prohibitive favorites and are perhaps a bit over-represented represented below. That said, they lived up to the billing and did not wilt under pressure.

Here are some of this tournament’s standout individual performers:

Kentaro Yoshinaga, pitcher, Nichidai San, West Tokyo

Where would Nichidai San be without their ace pitcher? Not basking in the glory of a national championship, for sure. The right-hander started 5 out of his team’s 6 games, pitching all but 4 1/3 innings of the tournament.

Over his 49 2/3 innings, he allowed 42 hits but struck out a healthy 59 batters. He struck out at least double digits in three games, suffering only one major hiccup; a 15 hit, 8 earned run pounding at the hands of Shimane’s Kaisei. His team bailed him out with one of their patented big innings (in this case, a 6-run 6th) and the team advanced.

Yoshinaga finished with a 2.90 tournament ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, both improvements on his Spring tournament numbers.

Despite being tired and laboring at times during the final game, he was still able to pitch his team to an 11-0 win and hold opponents Kosei Gakuin to 5 hits.

Yoshinao Kamata, pitcher, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

My “pitcher to watch” from the Spring, Kamata did not disappoint. Unlike Nichidai San, his Ishikawa team was not blessed with a potent offense. He K’ed 10 in an opening game 4-0 shutout, scattering 5 hits. He repeated the strikeout total in his second start, scattering 8 hits in a 4-2 victory.

In his third start Kamata ran into a very good Narashino team from Chiba, who edged Ishikawa 2-1. In that game his fastball reached 153 KPH, his high velocity for the tournament.

The fireballer struck out 29 over 26 innings, allowing 21 hits and putting up a tidy 1.04 ERA. Unfortunately his offense only provided him with an equal 21 hits to work with.

Yujo Kitagata, pitcher, Karatsu Sho, Saga

Admittedly, Kitagata came out of nowhere for me. His school hadn’t been to Summer Koshien since 1984 and I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Saga Prefectural qualifiers.

Tied for the hardest thrower with Kamata at 153 KPH, his scouting report said he featured a slider, cut fastball, curve, and forkball. I noticed the fastball and a power slider, because he relied on them to mow down opposing batters.

Against Furukawa Kogyo, he allowed just 4 hits and struck out 13, but was wild, walking 6 batters. It added up to three earned runs on his ledger, but his team won 9-4.

They didn’t win their second round game, though, as Sakushin Gakuin beat him 3-2. He struck out 10 again, walked 3, and allowed only 1 earned run. It wasn’t good enough, but he seems to have a promising future ahead.

Shunsuke Michibata, catcher, Chiben Wakayama, Wakayama

Of the highly regarded “big name” catchers (Michibata, Kensuke Kondo and Shuto Takajo) that made it to Koshien, it is debatable whether the Chiben Wakayama backstop had the best tournament. He gets the nod because Kondo and Takajo had truncated tournaments; both their teams lost early on. Nichdai San’s Takahiro Suzuki made terrific plays in the field; I just don’t think his bat is on par with the others.

Michibata was part of a good offense that put up 23 runs in just 3 games. He went 5 for 15, having a nice 3 for 6 day in round 2.

Toshitake Yoko, third base, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

One might say that Sanko’s third sacker is a little overweight. Fortunately for the champs, his bat is also pretty hefty.

In the qualifying tournament leading up to the Koshien finals, Yokoo put up a .500/.571/.792 line over 7 games.

In the finals he went out and improved upon it. He bashed out a ridiculous .625/.690/.708 (15 for 24).

Shun Takayama, right field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

Another guy whose bat made a huge statement in the tournament. He tattooed pitchers for a line of .500 (13 for 26) while getting on base at a .536 clip and slugging a silly .885. He hit two critical home runs, including one in the final game to dead center.

Honorable mention:

Sho Azegami, center field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

The team captain played a stellar CF and was one of Sanko’s reliable offensive weapons (6 for 24). His slow start in the early rounds held his numbers down.

Hiroaki Saiuchi, pitcher, Seiko Gakuin, Fukushima

Struck out 16 in his opening game. 19 IP, 16 H, 30 K over tournament (2 games).

Author’s note: For even more coverage and a non-stop Nichidai San love-fest, please visit Deanna Rubin’s wonderful Marinerds, etc. site.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Quick Koshien Qualifying Roundup

» 19 July 2011 » In amateur baseball, Koshien » 4 Comments

It’s one of my favorite times of year. Japan’s high schools baseball teams are once again marching on the road to Summer Koshien. Here are a few items making news:

  • Nara powerhouse Tenri is out of this summer’s qualifying games due to violence within the club. The Japan Student Baseball Association handed down a two month suspension on June 14th, and their absence opens a path for Chiben Gakuen or another school to represent Nara at Koshien. Interestingly, it has been either Tenri or Chiben Gakuen representing the prefecture for 36 of the last 39 summer tournaments, while Koriyama holds the other three. Kansai Chuo is highly ranked this year; might this be their chance to make the dance for the first time ever?
  • Speaking of first-timers, congratulations to Itoman of Okinawa, the first team to punch their ticket to Nishinomiya. Itoman held on in the prefectural final to beat Chubu Shogyo, 2-1. If I’m not mistaken, they will become the geographically southernmost Japanese school to play at Koshien, though there were teams representing Taiwan in the days when the island was under Japanese rule.
  • Spring and Summer 2010 champions Konan saw their great run end in that same Okinawa qualifying bracket. The loss of their fine left handed starter Yosuke Shimabukuro to graduation was more than they could overcome.
  • Narashino, one of the stronger teams from Chiba Prefecture, has a  great marching band. While their baseball is entertaining, something special happens when their boys are batting and they fire up their instruments. You can hear an audio clip of them here. The sonic treat alone is worth tuning into their games for.
  • Yokohama, a traditional power in Kanagawa Prefecture, is looking a bit shaky these days. While they breezed through their first game with a 10-0 score, they struggled to overcome a plucky Yokohama Shogyo squad on Monday (July 18th). Tokaidai Sagami, the Spring champions and 2010 Summer Koshien runners-up to the aforementioned Konan, are looking strong again and would like their shot to win it all. Getting out of the Kanagawa qualifier, with its 186 teams, won’t be easy.
  • Typhoon Ma-on has disrupted the schedules in the southern parts of Japan. As it makes landfall during the week, expect the cancellations to spread. Let’s hope the storm passes quickly, and that everyone in the affected areas stays safe and dry.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,

NPB Bullet Points: Koshien, College Ball, Auctions

» 06 August 2010 » In amateur baseball, npb » 10 Comments

Lots going on tonight, let’s jump right in.

  • With Koshien underway, I’d like to once again endorse the Goro Shigeno blog as the premier English destination for Koshien coverage. Video is available online here (requires MS Windows), and since many games are played early in the day it should be a little easier to enjoy them on this side of the Pacific.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with Koshien and Japanese high school baseball, I recommend checking out the film Kokoyakyu, which can be purchased on dvd or viewed via Hulu.
  • As I type this, Japan is playing Korea for the bronze in the World University Baseball Championship. Yuki Saito surrendering a grand slam in Japan’s last game against America cost Japan a shot at the gold. I tried to get into this tournament, but the number of blowouts made it hard to follow. As I type this, Japan is holding a 9-0 lead over Korea.
  • NPB is auctioning off signed, game-worn All-Star jerseys for charity. I haven’t looked through all of them, but Yu Darvish’s jersey figures to fetch the highest sum, with a current bid of 524,000 yen ($6130 at the current, awful exchange rate). If loyal reader EJH wants to purchase Masataka Nashida’s jersey, he’ll only have to beat a bid of 71,000 yen.
  • Mac Suzuki is making a return to Calgary Vipers of the independent Golden League.

And on a final, non-baseball note, August 6/7 marked the 65th anniversary of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I was glad to learn this morning that for the first time, the United States sent an envoy to Hiroshima’s annual memorial ceremony. I visited Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum in 2003, and it was a moving experience that really cemented my already strong opposition to armed conflict. Despite the fact that the conventional firebombing of Tokyo caused more damage than the atomic bomb, Hiroshima is certainly the more striking example of the cost of war. Today it’s one of the nicest cities in Japan, and I’d recommend visiting to anyone, for both the historical significance and the civic beauty. Today is also a good day to remember Langdon Warner, the American Harvard historian who is credited with convincing the US government to spare Kyoto and Nara from serious attacks.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,

Japan vs Korea, College Championships

» 06 August 2010 » In amateur baseball » Comments Off

Watch live video from どん専2 on Justin.tv

Continue reading...

Draft Prospects: Interesting Names

» 06 June 2010 » In amateur baseball, npb draft » 9 Comments

By a wide margin, the Japanese-language blog I read the most is Draft Report. If you haven’t seen the site before and can read Japanese, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s like an MLBTR-style aggregation site for NPB draft prospects.

Names with katakana in them always catch my eye, and I’ve noticed five so far this year. Not all these guys will be in the draft his year and it’s possible/probable that some won’t be drafted ever, but they come from unique backgrounds, which is what caught my attention.

  • Hugo Kanabushi, LHP, Hakuoh University: Kanabushi is a Japanese-Brazilian who went to Japan for high school, and is now at the same university that produced Yakult farmhand Rafael Fernandez (Hakuoh University has a couple other Brazilian-looking names on its roster as well). According to Draft Reports, Kanabushi hides the ball well and has a fastball that stretches to about 145 kmph, plus a slow curve. Command is listed as an issue for him.
  • Felipe Natel, RHP, Yamaha: Another Brazilian, Natal is a rather diminutive righthander with a delivery that is somewhat reminiscent of El Duque Hernandez’s. Natal will most likely sit out this year’s draft and play another year of shakaijin ball, since next year he will meet the residence requirements to escape the foreign player framework and qualify to as a Japanese player.
  • Fionn Ryuji Boylan, RHP, Kwansei Gakuin: Born and raised in Osaka to a Japanese mother and Irish father, Boylan is a pitcher who idolizes Kyuji Fujikawa. He spent his junior high school years in Ireland playing rugby, so he has a bit of a different pedigree than other pitchers his age. Draft Report says that we should see his velocity increase as he adds strength.
  • Jose Gonzalez, RHP Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Yokohama: Gonzalez is a 30 year-old alumni of the Hiroshima Carp’s Dominican Academy, and is in his third year of industrial league ball and residence in Japan. Similarly to Natal, Gonzalez is two years away from being able to enter the draft without the foreign player constraints. If he does enter the NPB draft, it’ll be the first case (that I can think of) of a former Carp Academy player to do so. I don’t think it’s often we see a former Academy player in the Industrial Leagues either, though Dioni Soriano and Wilfreiser Guerrero are recent examples of Academy players who reached NPB through Japan’s independent leagues. Gonzalez is a big guy (188cm) with a big fastball (maxing out at 153 kmph), so at least superficially he seems like a prospect despite his age.
  • Justin Nakano RHP, Koujou high school (Kanagawa): For Nakano I’ll borrow this from the excellent Goro Shigeno Koukou Yakyu site: “Yes, this is another case where a person has an American father although unlike Minami at Urawa Gakuin, Justin doesn’t appear to have the stature bonus. He can touch 140 with his fastball and compliments it with a sharp slider as well as a curve.”

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

Pitcher to Pursue MLB Career

» 23 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb prospects, npb draft » 2 Comments

That got your attention, didn’t it? This isn’t about Kikuchi though.

Sanspo is reporting that Aomori University righty Shota Ichinoseki is looking to begin his pro career overseas. Ichinoseki is a rather obscure player; he didn’t have a page on Draft Reports until this news broke, and even Deanna has never mentioned him. There’s no indication that he appears on any NPB team’s list of draft candidates. The 21 year-old student’s fastball tops out at 144 kmph (90mph) and he compliments it five breaking pitches including a slider and a forkball.

Ichinoseki is apparently willing to consider playing independent league ball in the US, and is planning is to travel to Taiwan to work out in front of MLB personnel in November. Sanspo quoted him as saying, “playing overseas is something I can only do now. I want to do it while I can.”

Lost in the furor over guys like Kikuchi and Junichi Tazawa is the fact that for some kids, playing overseas represents an opportunity that is otherwise not available. I hope Ichinoseki gets a chance to play somewhere.

<blockquote>http://www.google.com/#hl=en&q=ichinoseki+site%3Amarinerds.blogspot.com&aq=f&aqi=&oq=&fp=b8148470ea1f7ec2

Continue reading...

Tags:

213 Draft Candidates

» 16 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb draft » Comments Off

A total of 113 high school graduates and 100 college players have declared eligible for this year’s NPB draft. The total of 213 players declaring for the pros out of academic institutions is the highest since the application process has been in place. This figure does not include independent or industrial league players.

If the player does not submit an application, he will not be eligible for the draft on October 29th. Yusei Kikuchi will not be among that group as he turned in his application on time, despite all the scheduled meetings with NPB and MLB teams. Other well known high school names that will be in this year’s draft are Takeru Imamura (Seiho HS), Yoshitomo Tsutsugou (Yokohama HS), Shota Dobayashi (Chukyoudai Chukyou), and Masato Kiyashiki (Kindai Kousen). Some of the big college names entering the draft are Hosei University pitchers Kazuhito Futagami and Hisashi Takeuchi.

Even though all eyes are on Kikuchi whether he declares for the MLB or not, there are number of quality players in the upcoming draft and some teams might be better off focusing on other talents rather than taking their chances on drawing Kikuchi from the box, if he even stays in the NPB draft.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Update: Kikuchi’s MLB Meetings; Red Sox in the Mix?

» 14 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb prospects, npb draft » 6 Comments

Nikkan Sports has an updated version of what I posted yesterday on Yusei Kikuchi’s meeting schedule:

October 19: Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Giants
October 20:Mariners, Mets, Yankees, Indians

This is the first mention I’ve seen in the Japanese media of the Red Sox being in the mix. According to Nikkan, Boston had scout Craig Shipley at Koshien, observing in deep secrecy.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Who is Yusei Kikuchi?

» 14 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb prospects, npb draft » 8 Comments

Barring Junichi Tazawa, more has been written in the North American press about Yusei Kikuchi than perhaps any other amateur Japanese baseball player. And by the time he signs, I think Kikuchi will have surpassed Tazawa in ink. Most of what’s been written to this point, including what’s been on this site, is of the “Kikuchi is could change the baseball landscape” variety. Despite all the press, we still haven’t seen much about Kikuchi the individual. Here’s a crack at changing that.

Here in the States, it’s becoming more common to get to know top players before they reach the big leagues, and in some cases, before they are drafted. But the hype around Kikuchi is at a different level. Because of his two appearances at the Koshien high school tournament, Kikuchi was already well known as an amateur player, and this US-Japan cliffhanager has made him a regular news item. The closest parallel I can think of to this situation in the US would be a top college basketball player who’s gained stardom through the NCAA tournament.

Pitching
I watched Kikuchi pitch as much as I could during this year’s Koshien tournament. He does throw hard, during the games I watched his fastball ranged between about 87 – 96 mph (142-155 kmph). He did get a bit wild when throwing at the higher end of his range and I think he may have a tendency to overthrow at times. Perhaps this contributed to the back strain he suffered during the tournament. This video shows Kikuchi throwing his fastball mostly around 90mph, down in the zone with good command.

In addition to the heater, Kikuchi mixes in a slider and a curveball. He has good movement on both pitches needs to work on commanding them. During Koshien, he would go through stretches where he threw mostly breaking pitches; Goro Shigeno suggested at some point that he may have been trying to polish up his secondary stuff in anticipation of beginning his professional career.

He also has a goofy eephus pitch that I didn’t see him throw at Koshien.

Makeup
Kikuchi is a studious kid who reads 10 books per month and doesn’t watch TV. From what I’ve read, he seems to be a conscientious kid as well. The Nikkan Sports Draft Guide’s blurb on him leads off with an anecdote about how the writer was standing while watching Kikusei throw a bullpen session. Without saying anything, Kikuchi walked left the mound, and returned a few minutes later with a folding chair, offering it to the writer to sit in.

The May 25 issue of Shukan Baseball ran this lengthy quote on how he wants to conduct himself: “When I returned to Iwate (following the 2007 Koshien Tournament), even in town I heard people say ‘thank you for the excitement’. Of course through baseball, it’s a reality that my opportunities to be seen by the people around me have increased. I’m aiming for the pros after high school, but if I’m just messing around, the people who see me will think ‘even that kind of guy can go’. So I want to take action to live a responsible daily life and become a role model so the message will be ‘if I’m like Yusei I can go pro'”.

Kikuchi has waffled a bit on his decision between NPB and MLB, so take the above with a grain of salt. But he does seem like a decent kid.

Bio Information
Born in Iwate Prefecture on June 19, 1991. Bats and throws lefthanded. 184 cm (6’0 ) tall, 82 kg (180 lbs). Hobbies include reading, reads 10 books per month. Favorite baseball player is veteran lefty Kimiyasu Kudoh. Future dream is to become a major leaguer. (source: May 25, 2009 issue of Shukan Baseball)

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

Kikuchi War Begins

» 06 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb draft » Comments Off

Yusei Kikuchi completed his high school career and decision time is drawing near. He declared for pro turning in his draft application on October 5th, which he may start talking with teams from the following day. It was first believed he will only talk to couple MLB teams, but he changed his mind and has decided to talk with all teams that shows interest. Sponichi states Kikuchi’s side is planning to start talk with teams from the 13th Japan time. Manager Hiroshi Sasaki will be in charge of all talks as Kikuchi’s class schedule will not be able to create equal time availability for all teams. (for more, please see Yakyu Baka’s full article on Kikuchi’s press conference)

As more than 20 teams from NPB and MLB combined are thought to be interested, it is stated that he will start talking with one team at a time beginning with NPB teams. A Nikkan Sports article lists that NPB teams other than the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants (who have decided to go with Hisayoshi Chono) and Baystars, Carp, and Hawks are thought to be using their first-round pick for Yusei Kikuchi.

MLB teams listed in the same article that are believed to be interested are the Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Cubs, Braves, Twins, Mets, Mariners, Rangers, Indians, Tigers, and the Phillies. The list seems to be growing every minute.

A big decision which could change the structure of amateur baseball in Japan is in Kikuchi’s hands. This is just the first stage of his decision… NPB or the MLB. After following this story for until now, my big decision at the same age to come to the United States for undergraduate studies seems just a little bit lame.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,