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Attendance Rising

» 29 August 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 8 Comments

Although attendance is taking a hit in the States due to the economy, attendance is actually going up in NPB, with both the Central and Pacific Leagues announcing numbers for the season so far. The Central League increased its overall attendance by 6.2% and the Pacific League increased its numbers by 1.7% to date, comparing year-over-year.

The biggest factor for the increase in the Central League comes from the Hiroshima Toyo Carp opening its new Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium this season, which resulted in a 48% increase in tickets purchased. On the other hand, problems on the field do not seem to be affecting fan interest in the Yokohama BayStars, with attendance up by 9.4%. For the Pacific League, the Orix Buffaloes are contributing the most to the increase, with a 7.1% rise from last year. The Seibu Lions haven’t been too shabby either, increasing their attendance by 7%. The biggest drop comes from the Chunichi Dragons in the Central League at -5.7% and Chiba Lotte Marines for the Pacific League with -5.5%.

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Konkatsu Seats Becoming a Trend

» 05 August 2009 » In npb, sports business » Comments Off

With the success from Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’s Konkatsu Seat, a second team, the Chunichi Dragons will attempt to follow the trend hosting a Konkatsu event in mid-September. The team will partner with a travel agency and a wedding reception company to organize the event, “Chunichi Dragons de Konkatsu.”

The Dragons will take another step in thier Konkatsu event partnering with different organizations and make it a full day event. Participants will be taken to a wedding reception room from Nagoya Station on a bus for ice breakers before the game. The party will be headed to the ballgame afterwards with a similiar program to the Fighters’s event, and after the game the event will head back to the wedding reception room with the popular mascot Doala joining as well.

Surveys will be given to the participants beforehand to match people with similar interests, favorite players, and their personalities to make this a successful event. Teams following the act will do the best to “differentiate” from the previous ones and with two teams creating a konkatsu event for thier fans more may follow to join the trend. The game of baseball has come a long way in Japan, but who would’ve thought that it would be a place where a future couple meet? I have to give props to the Nippon Ham Fighters for making the first attempt and succeeding in starting a new trend that may continue.

If interested people may be able to apply here.

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“K” Board to Appear in Fukuoka

» 02 August 2009 » In npb, pitching, sports business » Comments Off

“K” signs and boards are commonly seen at ballparks around the United States, but until now, uncommon in Japan. NPB fans will be able to see the same at Fukuoka Yahoo Dome starting this week. The board will be placed along the first base line and a “K” will  be added every time a SoftBank Hawks pitcher records a strikeout. Surprisingly this will be the first time an NPB team has permanently placed a “K” board.

A SoftBank spokesperson states, “Batters are able to receive an award (hitting an advertisement board/ceiling), so we decided the pitchers should be able to obtain something as well.” If a pitcher breaks the team record set on April 6th, 2008 by Shota Ohba recording 16 strikeouts in a game, the pitcher will receive 100-man yen ($10,000) worth of gift certificates.

In the first half, the SoftBank Hawks led the league with 657 total strikeouts. If strikeout shows by pitchers increase that should bring a positive for a team staying in the playoff spot and be a spice for some individuals. Ohba states, “100-man yen is pretty big. Of course I will go for it.”

If the prize acts as an incentive for high-strikeout performances, we can expect that to have an effect on a pitching staff aiming to keep its team in a playoff position.

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Trade Deadline Passes

» 01 August 2009 » In nichibei, npb, sports business » 7 Comments

Compared to the many moves and much rumbling near the MLB trade deadline, the deadline in NPB ended quietly. There was a total of one trade during the 2009 season which was Taiyo Fujita being traded from Hanshin to Seibu for Keisuke Mizuta, a minor move where both teams filled supporting roles.

The numbers after the trade…

  • Taiyo Fujita (Seibu Lions) – 2.0 innings, ER, K (two games): 4.50ERA
  • Keisuke Mizuta (Hanshin Tigers)- Strikeout in one-at-bat

As you can see from the numbers both players have made minimal impact with their new teams. Rather than teams looking to add the last piece for a championship run near the deadline in the MLB, it’s more of two teams allowing their player to join a team with more possibilities. More teams look to add a suketto as seven foreign players were added by teams since the 2009 season started. However they tend to give chances to players that have already experienced the NPB culture as they feel comfortable adding an experienced player during mid-season where time for adjustment is limited.

Some players added during in-season…

The number of teams might limit the number of trades in the NPB (12 compared to MLB’s 30), but a culture of trading players are relatively new and there has been limited number of “blockbuster” trades in the league. The one that comes up to mind is a swap between Hayato Terahara for Hitoshi Tamura, a trade between a former first-round draft pick and a home run king.

The trade deadline is a big event for everybody involved in the MLB and headlines evolve daily with rumors and potential deals. It creates stories and news that people talk about around the water coolers and peoples’ interest  increases during the period of time. It should not be a bad thing for the NPB if people start engaging talks about the game and trades becoming more of a common business. However the difference in the culture of the games allows the transactions after the season starts to be limited and with only 12 teams and six of them facing each other about 20 times a season, it’s extremely difficult for teams deal players that might hurt them in the future.

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Yu Darvish’s Pitching Bible

» 25 July 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb, pitching, sports business » 2 Comments

Yu Darvish’s Pitching Bible has been on sale in Japan since last week.

The 84-paged full-color book features a special interview, demonstration of his breaking ball and off-speed pitches, and interviews by his former pitching coach, trainer, and catchers. His history will be revealed in depth and the results of the survey conducted to 50 current NPB players regarding his number one pitch will be presented.

The content of the book can be seen here. As mentioned before Yu Darvish will appear on CNN and he is taking the next step in marketing himself; having become one of the best pitchers in recent years. I am not sure how many of his “secrets” will be revelead in this book, but this shows some confidience in letting the nation know that he is not scared to present what he is made of to the whole country or maybe in his case, to the world.

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Konkatsu Seats will Continue

» 20 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » Comments Off

Nippon Ham’s Konkatsu Seat event resulted in a big hit mentioned in a previous post, and will continue to be an opportunity for fans to meet their future wives or husbands at the ballpark. The next event will be scheduled for the series against the Saitama Seibu Lions, September 21 to 23rd.

People probably had differing opinions regarding the event at first, but the results are in and is producing couples and most importantly, a new target audience  for Nippon Ham to sell tickets to. It will be interesting if other teams buy into this type of opportunity and expand their product beyond baseball even more.

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World’s First Pro Baseball Team Youtube Site

» 19 July 2009 » In npb, sports business » 5 Comments

The Seibu Lions have started a channel partnership with YouTube, the Lions@YouTube.  The service is provided for fans to view clips which are produced by the Seibu Lions. Many branded YouTube channels exist, including NBA.Com partnering with Youtube, but this is the first professional baseball team to have a channel on Youtube.

On the site, fans will be able to take a look at promotional events conducted by the Lions. What is interesting about the Lions@YouTube is that the website is not about highlight reels and game reviews, but more of a way for the fans to see behind-the-scenes and events conducted by the Lions.

In order to get a better idea, I recommend taking a look at these scenes from promotions done by the Lions:

  • Businessman Night – An opportunity for businessman off from work to live out their childhood dreams. Some of the opportunities include interacting with former players after the game by taking ground balls and challenging to throw runners out from the outfield, and playing catch on the field immediately after the game.
  • Baseball Women Night - An opportunity for female fans to interact with players and the sport. Opportunities include throwing off the mound and participate in toss batting, playing catch in the outfield and opportunities for couples to participate are available as well.

These events are conducted immediately after the game and it’s easy to see the excitement on participants’ faces in the clips. Establishing their own website in partnership with YouTube may inspire fans at home to attend the ball games themselves with their colleagues and friends.

Technology has been a big part of professional teams changing their methods of interacting with fans and the media, ie Twitter becoming the new trend in the United States. It will be interesting to see how NPB teams react to new trends and if other teams will follow with their own YouTube site or attempt for a new opportunity using a new wave of technology.

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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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Global Exchange for the Next Generation

» 28 June 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb, sports business » Comments Off

Baseball has grown into a global game and the Boston Red Sox and the Chiba Lotte Marines are working to keep it that way for the next generation. The Japan Society of Boston and the Red Sox Foundation teamed up to bring Japanese youth to Boston in the summer of 2008, and will send Greater Boston youth to Japan in 2009.

The Chiba Lotte Marines will take part in the program this summer and is currently looking for host families for the 12 youths from Boston. If you’re interested in hosting a youth, you may download the application from the website.

Last year, Boston played host to 12 youths coming from Kyoto and Chiba (Kyoto is a sister city of Boston). This program had several meanings as Kyoto and Boston was celebrating their 50th anniversary as sister cities. Another meaning to the exchange program came from the commemoration of the official partnership between the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Boston Red Sox. Those are the reasons behind youth from both Kyoto and Chiba participating in this program.

The participants experienced the whole package of American baseball and the city of Boston in their eleven day program (including travel). Japanese native Hideki Okajima (who is also from Kyoto) and Daisuke Matsuzaka took part in the program as an instructors and for a meet and greet opportunity with the youth (pictures can be seen on the Kyoto City website).

Now the Chiba Lotte Marines will look to return the favor and will welcome the youth from Boston to experience the culture of Japan. The youth will also have the opportunity to attend a Chiba Lotte Marines game and will be interesting what else the team has planned for them.

The world has gotten smaller with the game of baseball reaching to many part of the globe. The kids in Japan are watching MLB at a younger age with their stars going overseas and the American kids are being exposed to Japanese stars on a daily basis. However the youth in each country might not be exposed to anything more than that. Youth exchange programs like this should allow the next generation to understand and experience the different cultures starting from baseball.

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Take Me Out to the Auto Show

» 21 June 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 2 Comments

Mazda is taking advantage of the popularity of the newly-built stadium it sponsors to show off some its newest products.

Mazda utilized the concourses and the big screen of the ballpark to promote their new Mazda AXELA. Mazda is showing a little bit of innovative thinking in finding this way to leverage the naming rights they hold for the stadium. Sometimes you’ll see a car exhibited in American ballparks, or a section or suite sponsored by a car company, but I personally never heard of a car show being held at a ballpark.

The ballparks in Japan are not mostly owned by individual teams, instead they are owned by the cities. The teams pay usage fees to the city in most cases, so it’s hard for the teams to be creative and conduct their own events like many of the professional teams do here in the United States. It would be nice to see non-sporting events conducted at the ballparks and arenas rather than having them sit silent and dark on days when there are no home games.

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