Category > international baseball

Off The Beaten Path: Blogs

» 24 August 2010 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

Tonight I’d like to share a couple of blogs that I read, but don’t typically link to, but are interesting regardless. These aren’t daily stops for me but I do keep them in my rss reader.

English Blogs:

  • I discovered Baseball Latin America earlier in the year, when it was known as the Brazilian Baseball Blog. This was a welcome discovery for me, since Brazil is a growth market for baseball and there is very little information on the topic available in English. Author Andy Loretta has broadened his focus to cover all of Latin America, but this remains the best English source of Brazilian baseball information I’ve found.
  • Leon Boyd is a Canadian-Dutch duel citizen who pitches for the Netherlands national baseball team, and DOOR Neptunus in the Honkbal Hoofdklasse. He maintains a blog about his experiences playing in Europe at canadutch.blogspot.com.

Japanese Blogs:

  • Torazo Yagi is an interesting guy. He was a cameraman living in Italy (Palermo, if I remember correctly), who got bored and decided to try out for the local baseball team. He made the cut and played for a couple years in Italy, then in Lithuania. He currently blogs at ameblo.jp/yagitorazo, but his previous blog has more on his time in Europe.
  • I don’t have much to say about the Yokohama BayStars Rebuilding Plan blog, the title speaks for itself. I don’t know of too many NPB blogs that look at roster building.
  • Another site that speaks for itself is the “New Pro Yakyu Attendance Ranking” site (in quotes because the title is translated by me). NPB attendance numbers are always a bit spurious, but this is an interesting site nonetheless.
  • Yakyu Kozo a real yakyu otaku publication, and I just found out that they have a blog site. I found this one via Twitter — I have to say that I’m find Twitter increasingly useful.

Got any more that should be on this list? Let me know about ‘em.

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Re-run – Q & A: Honkbal Hoofdklasse with Rogier van Zon

» 08 July 2010 » In international baseball » 2 Comments

With the Haarlem Baseball Week about to start, I thought it would be a good time to re-run my interview last year with Dutch baseball expert, Rogier van Zon of honkbalsite.com. This post originally ran on July 16 of last year.


Back in May, I wrote that I was looking for expertise on baseball in the Netherlands and Brazil for content on the site. An emailer tipped me off to Rogier van Zon, editor-in-chief of the Dutch-language honkbalsite.com. Honkbalsite has been online since 2000, and is the most popular site on Dutch baseball. Rogier took the time to share his knowledge of Dutch baseball with us.

NPB Tracker: I suspect the biggest impression npbtracker.com readers will have of Dutch baseball is from this year’s WBC, which for me was one of the highlights of the tournament. Was the WBC a notable story in the Netherlands? Did the national team’s performance have any impact on the popularity of baseball in the Netherlands?

Rogier van Zon: When the Dutch beat the Dominican Republic in the WBC, it was one of the best days in Dutch baseball. It also proved that Dutch baseball is getting stronger each year. Not many people know that the Dutch team has won the European championship 20 times since 1956. They were number 4 during the last two World Cups and they forced Cuba to extra innings during the final of the last Intercontinental Cup.

Maybe it is hard to believe, but when the Dutch beat the Dominicans and advanced to the second round, there was hardly any newspapers or tv stations in the Netherlands that brought the news. The only media attention was a small article on one of the last pages of the sports section. Except baseball fans, probably the most people in the Netherlands didn’t even know what the Dutch team had done. Baseball isn’t a popular sport in the Netherlands. The game and it’s rules are to hard to understand. People prefer soccer, volleyball, cycling and speedskating. During the last world Port Tournament, just two games were televised (a recap in the evening).

NT: Can you give a brief overview of the Honkbal Hofdklasse?

RvZ: The Dutch Hoofdklasse is a league consisting of eight teams. They are located in and around Haarlem, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The reigning champion is L&D Amsterdam (the team names are mostly from the sponsors), and DOOR Neptunus (Rotterdam) is one of the strongest teams. They won the championship from 1999-2005. Another strong team is Corendon Kinheim (Haarlem). These teams rely a lot on their veteran players, mostly players from the Dutch national team. For example Raily Legito, Diegomar Markwell (Neptunus), Sidney de Jong (Amsterdam), Danny Rombley, Vince Rooi and David Bergman (Kinheim).

You can compare the level of the competition with SingleA/Double A in the United States. Each team is allowed to have one player without a European passport. One of these players is the Cuban Fausto Álvarez. He is 48 years old, but still one of the best in the league. He hit 24 home runs in his last four seasons. another strong player is Ryan Murphy. He is one of the best pitchers and batters in the Hoofdklase.

The Dutch league is an amateur league. This means that most of the players have a dayjob next to baseball. So they have to work during the daytime and have training in the evening. Baseball is not a very big sport in the Netherlands. Games in the Dutch Hoofdklasse attract a couple of hundred visitors.

NT: Who are some of the top players?

RvZ: The top players are of course well known players like Sidney de Jong (he was part of the Olympic lobby in Lausanne last month), Rob Cordemans (he also played in Taiwan for a couple of months) and Dirk van ‘t Klooster. Van ‘t Klooster has played 164 for the Dutch national team. These players were part of the team during the WBC.

Because Curaçao, Aruba and Sint-Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the players from these islands are allowed to play for the Dutch national team. That’s why the Dutch team can also rely on players like Major Leaguers Wladimir Balentien, Shairon Martis and Jair Jurrjens. There are (at this moment) around forty Antillean players in the Minors. Besides that, there are thirteen in Holland-born player in the Minors. These numbers will definitely will increase in the next years. The Netherlands have also started baseball academies. Former Yankees player Robert Eenhoorn is the progenitor. The academies bring a lot of talent.

Because the Netherlands can use players form Curaçao and Aruba, it is possible to create a very strong team. But this is not the key to the success. During the last World Cup, where the Netherlands reached the semi-finals, just four players of the Dutch team were not born in the Netherlands. The biggest key to success is the movement the Dutch manager Eenhoorn started. He made baseball in the Netherlands “professional”. He created two nationals teams: one for Dutch tournaments with players from the Hoofdklasse and another team for big tournaments with players from the Minors and Majors. This is just like Team USA has different national teams. The things Eenhoorn did are very important for baseball in the Netherlands.

NT: The Netherlands hosts some important international tournaments, notably the World Port Tournament and the Haarlem Baseball Week. Can you describe these tournaments?

RvZ: These two tournaments are events Dutch baseball fans really look forward to. It’s the only time baseball games in the Netherlands are sold out. During these games there are about4500-5000 visitors. For the Netherlands that is a lot. Mostly participants are Asian teams like Taipei and Japan, but also Cuba and American teams. The level of teams isn’t very high. Most of the teams play with college players, but for baseball fans in the Netherlands it is one big party.

NT: The 2009 World Port Tournament just wrapped up with Cuba as the champion. Were there any players on any team in the tournament that you were particularly impressed with?

RvZ: Cuba participated in the tournament with a very strong team. They couldn’t afford to lose another championship. They came to Rotterdam with a handful of players that had participated in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. Some of the strong players were pitchers Miguel A. González (MVP during the Cuban playoffs) and Maikel Folch (a Cuban All Star). Some other All Stars were in Rotterdam: outfielders Giorvis Duvergel and Leonys Martin, second baseman Yoilán Cerce and catcher Rolando Meriño.

Cuba had the four players with the best batting averages: Adonis García (16-34 / .471), Ariel Borrero (15-34 / .441), Yoelvis Fiss (17-40 / .425) and Eriel Sánchez (14-35 / .400).

The Netherlands started the tournament with 8 players who never played for the Dutch A-team. One of them was the 17 year-old Nick Urbanus. He’s a big talent. His father is Charles Urbanus and is grandfather is Han Urbanus, who both played for the national team. They are some of the best players ever in the Netherlands. Another rookie was Bas de Jong (24 years old). He was 5 for 5 against Cuba in his only second game for the Dutch team. He ended up as the best hitter for the Netherlands (.379).

NT: And finally, since NPB Tracker is primarily about Japanese baseball, I must ask, how did the Japanese team do?

RvZ: The Japanse team did play a couple of good games. They played 11 innings against Taipei in the first game and almost beat the Dutch team. The Dutch team scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 4-3. If Japan would have won these games, it would have been a whole other tournament and they would even have reached the finals.

Japan was the only team this tournament that has beaten Cuba. They won 2-1 because of a great performance by pitcher Syogo Suenaga (Ed. note: Teikyo University senior). He allowed just four hits in nine innings. It was the first time Cuba lost in nineteen games during the World Port Tournament. They had not lost since 2001.

Suenaga pitched and won complete games against both finalists. He also shutout the Netherlands (3 hits in 9 innings) earlier in the tournament.

You can find al of the statistics on http://www.knbsb-stats.nl/knbsb/stats09/wpt09/index.php.

If you are interested in Dutch baseball, you can read more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_in_the_Netherlands
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands_national_baseball_team

NT: Thank you Rogier!

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Ichinoseki Lands in Belgium

» 30 March 2010 » In international baseball » 6 Comments

Remember Shota Ichinoseki, the Aomori University pitcher who looked overseas as a fallback plan to not being drafted? He’s re-emerged after landing a deal to play in Belgium for the Namur Angels.

According to Sports Hochi, Ichinoseki had an MLB tryout last Autumn, but failed. He wound up in Belgium in a Web 2.0 kind of way: an agent his college manager knew posted video of him throwing to a website, and Namur saw it and asked for more video. The team liked what it saw and signed him.

I know very little about Belgium’s baseball league, but its level of play is reputedly lower than the leagues in Italy and the Netherlands. Another fun fact is that Leon Boyd played there prior to getting his Dutch passport and joining the Honkbal Hoofdklasse. Mister Baseball has a brief recap of Namur’s 2009 season here.

Ichinoseki says his goal is to return to Japan and play in NPB. He’s well off the beaten Industrial League / Independent League path, so whatever he winds up he’ll have taken a unique route.

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Japan & The Dominican Republic

» 02 February 2010 » In international baseball » 6 Comments

Last week, after Jorge Arangure broke the news that Dominican prospect Rafael DePaula’s MLB signing ban had been lifted, I exchanged a few “tweets” with Jorge and Keith Law, centered around my post about DePaula’s consideration of Japan last summer. Sometimes 140 characters isn’t enough.
@keithlaw: @npbtracker I’m not sure why no suspended player has tried Japan, or even Italy or Holland. Go make some coin and keep playing for scouts.

Practically speaking, it doesn’t make sense for NPB teams to sign suspended prospects, assuming that they are a) not ready to contribute at the top level in Japan and b) only willing to sign short-term contracts. I was bullish on DePaula trying Japan last summer — with the caveat that he’d be willing to make a long-term commitment (looking back, I wasn’t clear enough about this in my post). Certainly a number of Taiwanese players, and some Dominicans have signed with Japanese teams as amateurs and done well.

Holland’s Honkbal Hoofdklasse is really a semi-pro league, and each team is only allowed one non-EU citizen roster spot (for more check out this post), so that seems like a little more of a longshot. I remember reading about some Dominican prospects trying to play in Taiwan, but I couldn’t find anything on that. Maybe a knowledgeable NPB Tracker reader will know something about that.

@jorgearangure: @npbtracker do you know how much Japanese teams scout the DR these days?

5:00 PM Jan 27th from TweetDeck in reply to npbtracker

The Carp have an Academy in the Dominican, from which they recently brought a couple of players to Japan. Pitcher Wilfreiser Guerrero was in the Carp’s Academy in 2007, followed by two years of independent ball in Japan, and has now joined the Carp as an ikusei (development) player. Dioni Soriano, another pitcher, joined the Carp last season after following a similar pattern. Hiroshima also added two pitchers as “practice” players this offseason: Juan Javier (22) and Jose Lauriano (20)*. Javier initially lied about his age and identity, claiming to be 16.

The Chunichi Dragons don’t have a Dominican academy, but scout the Winter League heavily and have signed quite a few players over the last few years, including four this offseason.  Unlike the Carp, as far as I know Chunichi has only signed players with at least some professional experience with MLB organizations. They do take younger guys without much upper-level minor league experience though.

Beyond that, the SoftBank Hawks showed some interest last offseason about finding an independent Dominican baseball academy to establish ties with, but I never read anything about it beyond the initial report. The Yomiuri Giants have had some success developing Wirfin Obispo, who signed as a 22 year-old and put up a solid showing last year in his first real test at the top level. Yomiuri has an academy in China but not in the Dominican.

Up to this point, the main international market Japanese teams recruit amateur talent from is Taiwan (Chen Wei-Yin, Chang Chih-Chia). My opinion is that if NPB is going to miss out on top Japanese talent, like Junichi Tazawa, the best way to stay competitive would be to sign more talented amateur players as international free agents. NPB teams will never be in the mix for the Michel Ynoa-class prospects, but could reasonably compete for players in the $300k-$500k bonus range.

*Note: I guessed the spellings of Javier’s and Lauriano’s names, as I only had them available in katakana.

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Murton to Hanshin

» 08 December 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

The Winter Meetings kicked off without any blockbusters, but one move that will affect the NPB landscape was the Colorado Rockies shipping Matt Murton to the Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers have kicked the tires on numerous pitchers, and are close on Randy Messenger, but this is the first position player they’ve landed.

With Hanshin’s recent track record of finding sukketo who fit the puzzle offensively, this will be an addition worth keeping an eye on. This is the Tigers’ first signing since dismissing US scout Tom O’Malley, who was let go earlier this offseason.

On another note, the Tigers are leaning toward bringing back Craig Brazell as well.

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Winter Meetings Preview

» 04 December 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, nichibei, sports business » Comments Off

The MLB offseason is heating up, and figures to kick into full gear when the Winter Meetings open on Monday. As usual, there will be a number of story lines involving Japanese teams and players this year.

  • Hideki Matsui is the top Japanese name this offseason. His situation will evolve as talks with the Yankees occur and other key veteran sluggers find 2010 employers. Reports last week stated that agent Arn Tellem could call Matsui in anytime during the week, and Matsui has delayed his return to Japan to accommodate. Expect a full contingent of Japanese media keep the rumor mill jam-packed until this guy signs.
  • We could wind up with a better sense on the market for Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi. The market will be stronger for Igarashi, and the righty is already training in Arizona.
  • NPB foreign player rosters are filling up, but we frequently hear about a guy or two moving from MLB or affiliated ball over to Japan during the Winter Meetings.

Our own Ryo Shinkawa will be on the ground at this year’s Winter Meetings.

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Giants Sign Chih-Lung Huang

» 21 November 2009 » In international baseball, npb » Comments Off

The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants have agreed to terms with 20 year-old Taiwanese pitcher Chih-Lung Huang as an ikusei player. According to Sponichi, there were Major League teams interested in his services, but Chih-Lung Huang decided to start his career in Japan, where he had dreamed of playing.

Huang comments, “Since when I was young, I was interested in Japanese baseball rather than baseball in the States. I feel honored to be a member of a traditional team in the Giants.”

Huang’s fastball reportedly tops out at 152 kmph (~95mph) and he has a number of breaking pitches in his arsenal.Yakubaka has more details on the Huang signing and his numbers from the 2009 World Cup.

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Hiroshima Movement

» 20 November 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

According to Chugoku Shimbun, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp have agreed to re-sign right hander Michael Shultz to a two-year contract and are also working on a deal to add outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who appeared in 24 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles last season. The scouts liked Fiorentino’s average against left-handers and believes his batting eye is well-suited for the NPB.

As posted earlier in the week, the Carp are working on adding Justin Huber.

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Matsui in Demand

» 16 November 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, sports business » 5 Comments

Before free agent Hideki Matsui begins receiving calls for his service on the field, he’ll have a different set of suitors to field offers from: companies seeking him for endorsements.

According to reports, since the MVP performance in the World Series he has had eight offers to appear in commercials (three from existing sponsors and five additional prospective sponsors). Matsui’s price tag for each commercial appearance is estimated in the same range as Ichiro Suzuki, and his MVP performance could bring in up $10 million in earnings this off-season.

Media demand has also rocketed for Matsui, as he has received an estimated 100 requests for television and event appearances in his home country. Even though his home for next season has yet to be determined, it’s not an understatement to say his new team (if the Yankees does not re-sign him) will have an opportunity to develop a big presence in the Land of the Rising Sun.

That opportunity sets Matsui apart from the rest of the free agent pool, in some regards. The Japanese-language signage we’ve been seeing in Yankee Stadium during Matsui’s tenure with the Yankees is sure to follow him wherever he goes. Every news program in Japan will show highlights from Matsui’s game, so a well-timed advertisement behind the plate will reach millions of Japanese homes on a nightly basis. With this comes a revenue opportunity that teams won’t get with, say, Jim Thome.

As I was in New York last week the lack of Matsui merchandise in stores was not only obvious, but also well publicized. You can count on the Japanese business community not missing out on this opportunity and making the most out of his MVP performance in number of ways.

Patrick Newman contributed a few thoughts to this post.

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NPB-KBO Club Championship Notes

» 14 November 2009 » In international baseball, kbo, npb » 3 Comments

If you missed the NPB-KBO Club Championship, you can watched a Korean broadcast archived on justin.tv here: http://www.justin.tv/wkwlxjf#from-21.00,November-13-2009.

If you don’t see any video, try tweaking the time and date at the end of the url.

In a nutshell, Yomiuri beat Kia 9-4. It was a decent game until the 7th, when Yomiuri put seven runs on the board. Yakyu Baka has a write-up of the game, so I’ll limit my comments to a few observations. And here they are

  • This game failed to sell out Nagasaki’s rather small stadium. I wonder why they played in Nagasaki rather than the beautiful new stadium in Hiroshima?
  • The game felt like a spring training game spiked with a competitiveness, but the Giants did play all their starters. Last year, Seibu gave their foreign players the series off and let a number of their ni-gun kids play.
  • Kia’s starter, Yang Hyeon-Jong, was pretty good. He seemed to work mostly off of his breaking pitches, but seemed to have a respectable fastball, which I think he could have used more. In any event, I hope to see more.
  • Taishi Ohta pinch-hit at the end of the game, but looked completely fooled by You Dong-Hoon, who was otherwise hittable.
  • Wirfin Obispo is more of a “thrower” than a “pitcher”.
  • Tatsunori Hara took receipt of a huge trophy for his team’s victory.
  • Next year, the organizers are looking at bringing back the four-team format, and hosting the series in Taiwan. Good idea, in my opinion. I don’t think continuing to centralize this on Japan is in the best interest of Asian baseball.

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