Tag Archive > Hideo Nomo

Why Don’t NPB Players Make More Money?

» 05 May 2014 » In npb » 4 Comments

…a later article appears. The delving begins.

The glass is half empty: only 91 NPB players earn JPY 100m ($1m) or more per year, a relative paucity compared to their Major League counterparts.

The glass is half full: 91 is more than 10% of the total number of NPB players and all 91 are probably quite happy to be earning such a comfortable income; the vast majority NPB farm leaguers earn JPY 4.4m ($44k) and up, a relative fortune compared with their MLB-affiliated minor league counterparts.

So why don’t NPB players earn more? And more importantly, why haven’t NPB’s top salaries grown? Aside from the blips of Roberto Petagine and Tony Batista cracking JPY 700m ($7m) in the mid-aughts, the top salaries have leveled off at about JPY 600m ($6m).

This subject probably requires expertise or research that exceeds what I have to offer, but I do have a few observations, ordered numerically for convenient reference, rather than in order of precedence.

  1. Most of the biggest stars move on MLB, rather than driving up their NPB salaries.
  2. Domestic free agency does increase salaries, but is so restrictive that only a small percentage of eligible players even file.
  3. Pre-free agency salaries tend to go year to year, and pay cuts for non-performance or injuries are a bit more common.
  4. The almost complete lack of agents in NPB.
  5. A cultural aversion to crossing the salary thresholds set by previous stars.
  6. Payroll is spread more equitably across the entire baseball operation.
  7. NPB teams are operated as business units of large corporations, rather than independent businesses funded by wealthy investors.

I would point to Hideki Matsui’s departure for the Yankees following the 2002 season as the starting point of NPB salary stagnation. Matsui’s salary in 2002 was JPY 610m, and while we’ve seen that line crossed a couple times (see above), the JPY 600m figure has essentially become the benchmark number for top-notch NPB players. Shinosuke Abe has this year’s top salary, at the magic JPY 600m mark. He could have had more, but he didn’t feel ready to surpass Matsui’s number. If he Abe had had an agent involved. I’m sure he would have nudged him in the direction of the higher paycheck.

Following the 2001 season, Yomiuri offered Matsui an eight-year, JPY 6bn ($60m), which would easily have . Had he taken the Kyojin-gun’s offer, that would have dragged the benchmark up to JPY 750m. Ichiro’s final NPB salary (2000) was JPY 550m. Yu Darvish’s was JPY 500m (2011). Kazuhiro Sasaki’s was JPY 500m (1999), then JPY 650m after he returned to Yokohama. It’s reasonable to think that any of these guys would have raised the bar as well, though none ever had a publicly-disclosed offer of the size of Matsui’s.

Epilogue: I suppose this doesn’t explain much. NPB teams are mostly operated as loss leaders, and the league as a whole has been less aggressive than MLB at developing new revenue streams. I could easily write a whole post exploring the balances sheets of NPB clubs, but the fact that they are less profitable than their MLB counterparts is a big piece of the puzzle here.

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The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball

» 17 January 2014 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

“This isn’t because I wanted to play in the Majors at all costs. It’s just that I feel I can’t play for that manager (Keishi Suzuki), that’s all”

 

僕は、別にどうしてもメジャーでやりたかったわけじゃない。ただ、あの監督(鈴木)の下ではやれないと思った、それだけなんです」

Hideo Nomo, speaking about his decision to pursue an MLB career (source)

Nomo’s retirement and Suzuki’s insanity pre-dates my following of Japanese baseball, but I have read a little bit about Nomo and Suzuki. Suzuki’s treatment of Nomo was particularly grueling, including 191-pitch and 180-pitch starts, and comments like “to cure your pain, throw more.”

Nomo is rightfully credited as the player that opened the door for Japanese and Asian players in Major League Baseball. But he might not have done it Keishi Suzuki had been, you know, sane.

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Ichiro & Me

» 27 August 2013 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Last week, Ichiro reached perhaps the capstone achievement of his career: 4000 career hits as a professional in NPB and MLB. This put me in kind of a refelective mood, as Ichiro has been an omnipresent figure in my observation of professional baseball over the last 16-17 years, and a central character in my development from someone who knew little about Japanese baseball to someone who is capable of writing competently about it. Here’s 950+ words about how it happened.

The offseason, 1996 — I saw Orix Blue Wave’s [1] Ichiro play for the first time, on TV, in the bi-annual Nichibei Yakyu All-Star Series that has since been rendered obsolete by the WBC. This particular series was notable as it featured Hideo Nomo, a Japanese player, representing the American side. I don’t remember much about that series, other than the broadcasters pointing out that Ichiro was thought of as the likely candidate to be the first position player to make the leap to MLB, which turned out to be a prescient expectation. Ichiro, with his distinctive high-kick swing and mononymous name, was implanted on my mind from then onward.

Winter, 1997 or 1998 — As an early eBay user, I was able buy a Japanese Nintendo 64 baseball game, King of Pro Yakyu[2]. I quickly learned to recognize the Orix Blue Wave logo, and the first Japanese phrase I learned to read was Ichiro. Or, more accurately, I could understand which series of characters read “Ichiro”, but I couldn’t tell you which one the “chi” was. Nonetheless, Orix was the only team I ever played with in that game and evenually I learned about So Taguchi, Koji Noda, Troy Neel and DJ.

At some point around this time, I discovered Michael Westbay’s JapaneseBaseball.com, simply by typing “japanesebaseball.com” into a browser to see if anything was there. It became an invaluable resource for me as time went on.

August 2000 — I set foot in Japan for the first time, to spend a semester as a foreign exchange student. As luck would have it, I found myself in the Kansai region, not far from Orix’s home in Kobe. As luck wouldn’t have it, Ichiro was injured, so I defaulted to mostly watching nationally televised Yomiuri games, becoming a fan of Hideki Matsui, Darrell May, Hideki Okajima and Akira Etoh[3]. Ichiro did eventually return to play in the final game of the season, which I saw on the news but not live. I had no idea that it would be Ichiro’s last game (to date) with Orix. A month or so later, Ichiro’s intent to move to MLB was announced and it was a huge news story.

By the time I returned to the States in December, Ichiro’s rights had been won by the Mariners. It kind of seemed like a predestined move, as Ichiro has spent some time with the Mariners during spring training in 1999, and the team is owned by Nintendo.

Spring 2001 — Back home, my Dad and I attended an early-season White Sox-Mariners game, during Ichiro’s first trip to Chicago. Ichiro went 3-6 and made at least one perfect throw back to home plate, but what I remember most about that game was the number of Japanese photographers stationed around Comiskey Park. We saw groups of three or so photographers in several spots around the stadium, capturing even the most mundane Ichiro moments from every possible angle.

Ichiro, of course, went on to win the MVP award and the Mariners had a historic regular season, but fell short in the playoffs. By the time they did, I had returned to Japan to begin my eikaiwa[4] job. Like everyone else in Japan I wanted to see Ichiro in the World Series, but I wasn’t disappointed by the terrific Yankees-Diamondbacks series. I figured the Mariners would get another shot, which wound up never happening.

September 2004 — Early in 2004, I relocated from Japan to San Francisco. Ichiro appeared to be somewhat in decline, as batting had tailed off a bit in 2003 and he had gotten off to a slow start in 2004. Then in May something clicked and Ichiro was locked in the rest of the season, particularly in July and August. By September it seemed clear that he was going to set the MLB record for most hits in a season, and it looked like he might do it during a four game series in Oakland during the last week of the season. Being semi-employed at the time, I had the free time to attend all four games that week, but Ichiro cooled off and wound up setting the record after the Mariners returned to Seattle.

10 years earlier Ichiro set the NPB record for most hits in a season with 210, so he held the single season hits record in both leagues, until Matt Murton broke his NPB record with 214 hits in 2010.

2008-2009 — For the next couple years, nothing much happened. Ichiro continued to rack up 200+ hits per year, but the Mariners were never really in contention for a playoff spot. I continued living in the Bay Area and reading Shukan Baseball[4], until 2008, when I started this blog, which both of you are reading right now. Two of my earliest attention-grabbing posts where Ichiro-related, or more specifically, Ichiro pitching related: Ichiro pitching in the 1996 NPB All-Star game, and again in preparation for the 2009 WBC. Certainly, I owe some portion of the audience I managed to build to the fascination with Ichiro.

[1] The Blue Wave name is now defuct. In 2004, the Orix Blue Wave merged with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, and became the Orix Buffaloes.
[2] Atlus software’s clone of Konami’s Powerful Pro Yakyu. Here’s a clip.
[3] All but Etoh evetually played in the Major Leagues.
[4] Eikaiwa is a contraction of “Eigo kaiwa”, meaning “English Conversation”. It’s a job were a native English speaker teaches conversational skills a group of one to four students.

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NPB Bullet Points: Year End Blowout

» 26 December 2010 » In npb » 20 Comments

Alright, it has been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but I have been reading. Here’s a list of stories I’ve gathered up over the last month, in roughly chronological order. Most of the source content is Japanese but there are a few English items in there.

  • Back in early December, Osamu Yamamoto of the Chugoku Shimbun shed some light on the Hiroshima Carp’s US scouting practices, and shared some evaluations of players that the Carp signed over the last few years. Among this year’s signings, Dennis Sarfate graded at the top of the team’s five point scale with an A, while Chad Tracy and Bryan Bullington punched in a notch below at the AB level. Hiroshima has also added former Carp player Scott McClain as a second US-based scout.
  • Yakult lefty Masato Nakazawa has gotten married.
  • Speaking of weddings, Yankees lefty farmhand Naoya Okamoto attended one in Kyoto, where he bumped into several former teammates. Judging by the pictures, I’m concerned Okamoto may have joined a gang (笑).
  • A personal favorite of mine, Nagisa Arakaki has signed for 25% pay cut next season. Once upon a time I thought Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher, but he’s been done in by injuries. Hopefully he’s able to come back, but I fear his days as a power pitcher are over.
  • Kengo Kubo of Nikkan Sports fills us in on Yomiuri Giants representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake’s ideas for increasing Japanese participation abroad, including establishing a “Team Japan” to play in overseas winter leagues. This year, six players including Yoshiyuki Kamei played in Australia. Hopefully I’ll find some time to write more about this subject because there are some interesting ideas out there.
  • Sanpo reports that Yusei Kikuchi has signed a management contract with talent agency HoriPro, the first active baseball player to do so.
  • Norichika Aoki’s 2011 goal is to surpass Ichiro’s record of 210 hits within the first 130 games of the season. Incidentally, Ichiro’s 1994 pace translates to 232 hits over the current 144-game schedule.
  • Hiroshima’s Kenta Maeda was quoted in Sanspo as saying he’d like to “try going to the Majors”, in response to a question from pro golfer Mika Miyazato. However, a couple days after he said this, Gen over at Yakyubaka.com found him contradicting himself.
  • Former Yakult Swallow Jaime D’Antona was on the field when Matt Murton broke Ichiro’s hits record, and shared his thoughts on the official Swallows blog. Here’s an excerpt: “It was great also, since it was at Jingu,to see our fans appreciate his achievement and cheer for him with the Tigers fans. That showed a lot of class for our fans and proves we have great baseball fans, not just all or nothing Swallows fans. I think that is important in sports and you don’t see that too often.” I caught this one via the Tokyo Swallows Twitter feed, and recommend following them if you happen to use Twitter.
  • Yoshiaki Kanemura looks back on Hideo Nomo’s historic move to the Dodgers.
  • Like Aoki, Softbank’s Munenori Kawasaki is taking aim at the single-season hits record next year. As part of his offseason training, he’s working on hitting bad pitches. Last year, Kawasaki finished just behind Murton, Aoki and Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a Hawks-record 190 hits.
  • The great Mister-Baseball.com has covered the Australian Baseball League this season, which Kamei and Shuhei Fukuda participated in.
  • Deanna attended some bounenkai (year-end) parties and found this cool glass.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Rusty Ryal will by paid 100m yen (lazy conversion: $1.2m) and play third base for Yomiuri. Rusty’s dad Mark played for Chunichi.
  • Yomiuri’s Kiyotake commented again on Winter Leagues on the 24th in Sanspo, saying that he had a “request for players from Puerto Rico”, and that he wants to get players “opportunities in competitive games overseas.”

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Daisempai

» 23 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Long before Yusei Kikuchi entertained eight MLB suitors, before Junichi Tazawa rattled the cage by skipping NPB to sign with the Red Sox, before MLB teams first took note of Yu Darvish, before Daisuke Matsuzaka attracted $51m in posting money, before Hideo Nomo ‘retired’, before Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to reach the majors, before Walter O’Malley tried to acquire Shigeo Nagashima, there was Eiji Sawamura.

November 20 marked the 75th anniversary of Sawamura’s famous one-hit loss to the touring team of American all-stars. Sawamura, then 17, struck out Hall of Famers Lou Gerhig, Babe Ruth and  Jimmie Foxx, but surrendered a solo home run in the 7th to Gerhig, which was all the Americans needed to win 1-0.

The Americans responded to the loss by trying to sign Sawamura. There are various retellings, but the story goes that a Pirates scout asked Sawamura to “autograph” a contract. Connie Mack also tried to acquire him for the A’s, perhaps in a more above the board way. Sawamura refused and eventually went pro in Japan, but died in World War II. the Sawamura Award was established by NPB in 1947 (pre-dating the Cy Young Award).

The word “sempai” (先輩) roughly translates to “one who came before” or “senior”, like an older kid at school, or Nomo to Matsuzaka. Prepend it with a “dai” (大), meaning “big”, and you get “daisempai” (大先輩), as in someone who went to the school school, but graduated long before you even started. In a sense, Sawamura was the earliest predecessor to all the players I mentioned in the first paragraph.

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Kikuchi Meetings: Day Two

» 18 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb draft » 2 Comments

On Day Two, Yusei Kikuchi met with the eight remaining NPB teams, thus concluding the NPB portion of his schedule. Word is that he’s still 50-50 on which league he chooses, and that should he choose NPB, he doesn’t have a preference on which team he plays for.

Here’s what Kikuchi had to say about the meetings: “I like baseball talk, so it was easy to have the talks. There are a lot of fans in Japan, and solid player development systems. In the case I play in Japan and am drafted, I would give my best effort to any of the 12 teams.”

And his manage, the omnipresent Hiroshi Sasaki: “Each team has it’s own system for maturing individuals. To wait until the last moment before the draft to answer would be an annoyance to the teams, so we should give a decision as quickly as possible after the MLB meetings end.”

Here’s what each of the teams had to say about the situation, again summarized and paraphrased by me:

Chunichi: “Even if there’s only a 1% chance, we’re still going to take the plunge on that arm. We’ll go every day (to see him) until the end of March (when the signing period ends).” Chunichi Chief Scout Hayakawa quoted in Sponichi.

Nippon Ham: “He had extreme interest in things like ‘would Darvish coach me technically?” GM Yamada quoted in Sponichi. Nippon Ham also told Kikuchi “they will select him with their first pick” to which Kikuchi replied “thank you very much”.

Rakuten: “He’s a franchise player. By all means, we want him to play in Tohoku. We’re still a young team, so let’s make team history.” Rakuten team representive Yoneda quoted in Daily Sports.

Yokohama: Yokohama’s first pick was thought to be slugger Yoshitomo Tsutusgo, but chief scout Horii has revealed that Kikuchi is still in the picture. Quoted in Nikkan Sports, Horii told Kikuchi “we haven’t decided on Tsutsugo as our first pick.”

Yakult: “By all means we want this treasure of the baseball world to perform in Japan.” Unattributed quote from the Daily Yomiuri.

Chiba Lotte: “He’s better than our own Yuuki Karakawa.” Senior Scout Matsumoto, quoted in Sponichi.

Hiroshima: The Carp are reportedly out on Kikuchi and will take Seiho HS righty Takeru Imamura, the pitcher who beat Kikuchi’s Hanamaki Higashi at Koshien, with their first pick.

SoftBank: Like the Carp, the Hawks are looking at Imamura as an option for their first pick, and have mostly been quiet on Kikuchi. SoftBank has plenty of pitching, so Tsutsugo probably makes the most sense for them.

Conventional American logic would dictate that Yokohama BayStars, who finished last yet again this year, should have the first overall pick in the draft. That’s not how it works in NPB. For an explanation, please see Ryo’s draft primer.

It’s being reported that as many as ten teams could choose Kikuchi in the first round, which break the previous record of eight set in 1989 by Hideo Nomo. I’d be little surprised if that happens, but if he stays in Japan he’ll have plenty of suitors. There’s really no downside to selecting Kikuchi in the first round (unless you really want Hisayoshi Chono); even if a majority of teams choose him, only one will get to his rights, and most of the other good players will still be on the table.

After a one-day breather, Kikuchi will begin meeting with MLB teams on the 20th. It’ll be interesting to see if the teams come armed with financial offers in hand. We already know what the NPB teams are restricted to a max bonus of about $1m, incentives of about $500k, and first year salary about $150k. We can reasonably expect MLB clubs to outbid NPB here, but by how much and under what terms remains to be seen. This is where the saga really starts, and we’ll learn more over the next few days.

edit – corrected number of teams that drafted Nomo.

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Inside the Industrial Leagues

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, sports business » 3 Comments

With current Boston Red Sox prospect Junichi Tazawa making the jump from the Japanese Industrial Leagues to the Major Leagues, the attention toward Industrial Leagues is increasing as we speak. Also the 2009 Baseball World Cup is set to begin from September 9th and you may have noticed the Japan national team roster is composed of only Industrial League players.

The Industrial League, operated by the JABA (Japanese Amatuer Baseball Association), is explained as a minor league unaffiliated with the Nippon Professional Baseball in the NY Times article, Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher. Teams are fielded by company’s operating in Japan, and the Industrial Leagues are treated as amateur baseball with players not receiving salary as a baseball player, but as an employee with the company.

There are two types of team registered for the Industrial League: Corporate teams and Club teams. Every teams registered is listed on Wikipedia. Teams across the nation participate in tournaments and leagues year around. The one currently in the final stage is the 80th annual Intercity Baseball Tournament (Toshi Taikou Yakyu Taikai) and the finals will be played September 1st from 6pm at the Tokyo Dome (Japan time) between Toyota and Honda. Also the first round of the 36th Industrial League National Tournament  (Shakai-jin Yakyu Nihon Senshuken) has started its regionals. Other notable tournaments include the 34th All-Japan Club Tournament (Zen-nihon Club Yakyu Senshuken). The history among these tournaments are established and there are plenty of games for teams and players to participate in.

Many current stars in the NPB and some MLB players have taken the Industrial League route to professional baseball. Current Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome played as a member of the Nihon Semei (Osaka) and won the Rookie of the year title in the 67th Toshi Taikou Yakyuu Taikai tournament. Japanese MLB pioneer, Hideo Nomo, is a former industrial leagues player as well. NPB stars such as Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions), and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) are couple other players with Industrial League experience.

Even though the Industrial Leagues play a role in developing future NPB and possible MLB players, the existence of many teams have become an issue due to current business environment in Japan. If the parent company is struggling to make a profit, the existence of a baseball team for the company would always be a candidate for a budget cut. Industrial League powerhouse teams like Nissan had no choice, but to fold due after this season due to the parent company having financial problems.

In order for Industrial Leagues to survive and to reduce the financial responsibilities for some companies, talks are on-going to merge some of the tournaments and to reform the structure of the league. Sanspo recently published a lengthy article on the topic in Japanese. The recent change in Japanese political leadership could have an effect on the Industrial Leagues and its participating companies and this will be an issue we should all keep an eye on.

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Agents in Japanese Baseball

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

With the draft over in the United States, the next focus will be on teams negotiating with agents to reach agreements for the players starting their professional careers. Agents occassionally get the national spotlight for some negotiations and have become a big part of sports business and the baseball world, which has led to a paradigm shift in professional sports.

On the other hand, in NPB, player agents are still a fairly a new idea and agents are known as Dairinin (representative). One agent that comes to mind, having received national attention is Don Nomura (the son of  Sachiyo Nomura, and step-son Rakuten Golden Eagles manager Katsuya Nomura). He was involved in negotiating a minor-league deal for Mac Suzuki and was a big part of Hideo Nomo crossing the Pacific.

Although agents are starting to be recognized, NPB still has a closed culture toward accepting the role of the agents. An agent needs to be a licensed lawyer or certified as an agent by MLB, or pass the exam that the Players Association provides. They also need to register with NPB in order to take part in a player’s contract negotiation. In order to register as an agent, the candidate must read the rules and apply downloading the materials from this page.

The biggest difference in the role of agents between MLB and NPB is that an agent can only represent a single player. This restriction reduces the appeal to become a player  agent as not many people will be able to live off of the five percent commission from one player.

Surveys have been taken by the Players Association in the past to look at what the players actually think about agents and if they would like to utilize an agent in the future (The Results from 2000). Players were still hesitant to embrace the idea of using agents, as only 2.2 % (14/633) of the players answering the surveys stated they would definitely like to use one.

However in recent years with agents being well-known for representing players negotiating for major league deals, the idea of agents is gaining ground with the players. A new development we’ve seen is established lawyers adding player representation to their resumes. “Lawyer Kitamura Joining the Baseball World” is one famous recent example.

Unless the rules change to allow agents to be a bigger part of the sport, it is hard to imagine an icon like Scott Boras appearing in the NPB world. However, as agents are becoming more trusted from the players, the opportunities for sports agencies should grow. Notably, Hisashi Iwakuma signed a deal with IMG in December, 2007.

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Inside the NPB Draft

» 10 June 2009 » In international baseball, npb, npb draft » 3 Comments

It’s officially Draft Week here in the United States, so it’s a great time to take a look inside the NPB Draft.

The NPB Draft occurs at the end of season in October and two different types of draft take place: the regular draft where teams select high school graduates, college graduates and industrial league players; and the ikusei player draft, for players for the Ikusei System.

Players eligible for the regular drafts are…

  • Graduating from a school in Japan the March after the draft
  • Graduating from a college the March after the draft (only seniors are eligible for the draft)
  • High School players who registered to enter the draft by notifying the Japan High School Baseball Federation
  • College players who registered to enter the draft by notifying the Japan University Baseball Federation
  • For industrial league players: If the player entered the league as a junior high or high school graduate, three years after entering they will be eligible for the NPB Draft. All other players are eligible two years after starting industrial league careers, unless the team is discontinued for financial reasons
  • For independent league players: Players will be treated equally to industrial league players unless the player declares intent for NPB, in which case they will be eligible anytime during their independent league career

There’s also a new regulation known as the Tazawa Rule…

  • Players who refuse to enter the NPB Draft and elect to play overseas will not be eligible for the draft for three years if going overseas after high school, two years for all others

How the draft works…

  • The first round is lottery-based, where every team may select the same player. In the event that more than one team selects the same player, the right to negotiate with that specific player will be determined by a drawing (Scene from 1989 Draft: Hideo Nomo) (Scene from 1992 Draft: Hideki Matsui)
  • After the first round, the draft continues in the waiver style, which is based on the final standings from the previous season. The last place teams will select first and so on. The last place team from the league which won the All-Star series will select first. If the All-Star series was a split by the two teams, who gets the first pick will be determined by the run difference in the two games.

The Draft is complete when 120 players total have been selected or if every team indicates they are finished selecting players. However foreign players and independent league players being drafted will not be included in the 120 players… So one team may end up with more players selected than another, usually depending on financial reasons or the strength of the draft class. Many changes are waiting to happen with the restrictions of the draft and we shall see what will really be the impact of Junichi Tazawa opting out of the NPB Draft in 2008.

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Armada Introduces Irabu

» 19 May 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off

The Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden League formally introduced Hideki Irabu on May 18. Sanspo quoted Irabu as saying, “I want to feel the joy of standing on the mound and have fun out there. I’m excited”. Sanspo also has a couple of photos of Irabu in his jersey and at the press conference. That’s Long Beach manager Gary Templeton on Irabu’s left in the second picture, and a guy who kind of looks like actor Ray Liotta on his right. Irabu is scheduled to make his first game appearance on June 5.

Last month, Long Beach’s Golden League rival Calgary Vipers announced the signing of Mac Suzuki as well (thanks to reader Dave G for the tip), so we’ll have two of the Japanese MLB pioneers in the same indy league this year. Ironically, along with Hideo Nomo, Irabu and Suzuki hold an ownership stake in the independent Elmira Pioneers, who currently participate in the New York State Collegiate League. So we have a couple of guys who own a team in one league playing in another.

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