Tag Archive > Roberto Petagine

Offseason Changes: Softbank Hawks

» 23 February 2011 » In npb » 7 Comments

Coming: Seiichi Uchikawa, Alex Cabrera, Toru Hosokawa, Anthony Lerew, Soichi Fujita, Juan Deleon

Going: Kazumi Saito, Roberto Petagine, Arihito Muramatsu, JD Durbin, Beom-Ho Lee, Makoto Sato, Micheal Olmstead

Staying: Hitoshi Tamura, Brian Falkenborg, DJ Houlton, Jose Ortiz

Summary: Two years removed from a sixth-place finish, in 2010 the Softbank Hawks rode Seibu’s late-September swoon to the Pacific League crown. For an encore, they’ve added more star power than any other NPB team this offseason.

The big additions are of the offensive variety: contact-hitting outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa, slugging first baseman Alex Cabrera, and glove-first catcher Toru Hosokawa. 2010 Pacific League MPV candidate Hitoshi Tamura was also retained on a one-year deal. Uchi and Cabu should improve a lineup, that despite having some talented hitters, was only the 4th most productive in the PL last seasoan. Cabu should fill at-bats that were mostly taken up by the departed Roberto Petagine and a rapidly-aging Nobuhiko Matsunaka, while Uchi’s presence will cause guys like Satoru Morimoto and Hiroshi Shibahara will find themselves on the bench more often. Durability is a bit of a question mark, as both Cabrera and Uchikawa have injury histories, and Cabrera, Matsunaka, and Hiroki Kokubo are all on the wrong side of 35. If any of them falters, though, the steady bat of Jose Ortiz is still on the roster.

On the mound, Softbank’s pitching staff was the second best at preventing runs in 2010. The Hawks’ pitching success was led by it’s bullpen. Softbank threw a league-high 16 shutouts last year, but the team’s starters only managed six complete games — seven fewer than the next lowest total, by Seibu. To that end, the re-signing of middle-relief ace Brian Falkenborg was critical. Softbank has two ace-caliber lefties at the top of its rotation in Toshiya Sugiuchi and Tsuyoshi Wada, but after that the quality drops a bit. Kenj Ohtonari has a good arm and looked like a third lefty ace back in 2008, but hasn’t been as productive over the last two seasons. Yet another lefty, 30 year-old Shinsuke Ogura, battled through 102 innings last year, but did so with a 5.29 ERA. DJ Houlton is back, but he followed up an extremely hit-lucky 2009 with a rough 2010. We’ll see which way things go in 2011. If new addition Anthony Lerew can pitch with as much flair as he grows facial hair, the Hawks will have something. Former ace Kazumi Saito has finally succumbed to injuries and retired, while the the once-excellent Nagisa Arakaki is still battling his way back. And this would be a great year for Sho Iwasaki or Shota Ohba to take a step forward, given that longtime ace Wada is headed for free agency after the season. There are a lot of question marks among the rotation candidates, but the glass is definitely half-full, thanks to the Hawk’s front-rotation stability and excellent bullpen.

Overall, this team has talent up and down its roster, and despite the competitiveness of the Pacific League, it’s hard to see them finishing outside the top three this season.

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Answering Google’s Questions

» 19 June 2010 » In Uncategorized » 4 Comments

Some of the search engine queries that wind up on this site are phrased as questions. Not all of the questions are answered directly by the content on the site, so I thought I’d answer a few of the more interesting ones here.

- Who is the shortest person in the npb?

This one has shown up multiple times. My best guess is Rakuten infielder Kensuke Uchimura, who is 163 cm or 5’4.

- Where does Hayato Doue play?

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

- Who is the best hitter in Japan today?

Today, I would say it’s Kazuhiro Wada, who is tearing up the Central League to the tune of .356/.454/.662 with 17 hr and 44 rbi.

- What pitches does Ryota Igarashi throw?

Mostly a fastball and a splitter. I wrote a profile of him last year, haven’t seen enough of him with the Mets to know if it’s still accurate.

- What is a 4 shake ball?

A knuckleball thrown with a forkball grip. See here for more.

Who does Tadahito Iguchi play baseball for in 2010?

Chiba Lotte Marines.

Who did the SoftBank Hawks trade for Roberto Petagine?

No one, Petagine was signed as a free agent.

Who is Dioni Soriano?

The latest graduate of the Hiroshima Carp’s Dominican Academy to reach NPB. I wrote a little bit about him over at FanGraphs.

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NPB Bullet Points: Petagine Lands, New Jobs for Scouts

» 28 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

It’s been all too long since I’ve done a bullet points round up… but here we go with another edition.

Only Japanese links today…

  • Roberto Petagine has made his NPB return, and looks set to get his first ichi-gun start with SoftBank on May 29, DHing and batting 6th. Petagine’s spot on the roster comes at the expense of Beom-Ho Lee, who was demoted the other day after hitting .218 in 34 games. Incumbent DH Nobuhiko Matsunaka has been even worse than Lee, struggling with a .197/.267/.318 slash line.
  • In other SoftBank news, Munenori Kawasaki has racked up enough service time for domestic NPB free agency. I can’t see him leaving unless it’s to go to MLB though.
  • The Yakult Swallows seemed to really want Kazuo Matsui.
  • Here I go rattling the cage again: the Yankees had two scouts watch Yu Darvish’s last start. This is the second time they’ve seen him this year.
  • Keiichi Yabu wants to play again, and is looking into playing in a US independent league. The idea of a return to the Hanshin Tigers came up, but Yabu seems to prefer the Indy leagues.
  • The Carp promoted Dominican lefty Dioni Soriano to ichi-gun, and he promptly pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his debut. Soriano took the long way to NPB — playing at the Carp’s Dominican Academy, moving to Japan as a renshusei (practice player), spending time in the Shikoku Island League, re-joining Hiroshima as an ikusei player, and finally signing a regular contract this season. If Soriano pans out, he gives the Carp a much-needed bullpen lefty.
  • Scouting news: SoftBank has hired Kent Blasingame as its US-based scout, and former Hanshin scout Tom O’Malley is working with the Wasserman Media Group with the intent of helping NPB players move to MLB. Blasingame’s father, Don, played in Japan and managed the old Nankai Hawks and later the Hanshin Tigers.

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Bullet Points: NHL Playoffs, Debuts

» 19 April 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

First a little diversion into hockey: the NHL playoffs are underway and my local San Jose Sharks won the top seed in the Western Conference, and are off to an… interesting start to their first series. If you’ve paid any attention to the Sharks over the last few years, you know that they’ve made a habit of perennially flaming out in the early rounds of the playoffs. So I had modest expectations coming in, which I thought were realized with a rather lackluster game one. But in game two I saw a Sharks team that I haven’t seen in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw them play with such a level of urgency. And they took it up a notch in game three, completely dominating the puck in the second and third periods.

But the Sharks had their flaws in both games two and three: in game two they few chances they gave up were top-notch, and Evgeni Nabakov didn’t make any big saves in regulation; in game three the Sharks just couldn’t manage to score, despite getting 51 shots to the net, and eventually lost on an own-goal in overtime. The Sharks are clearly more talented than Colorado but have yet to really play a complete game.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, the Sharks kept their young players together, Jonathan Cheechoo never fell apart, and a team featuring lines of Joe Thornton, Cheechoo, and Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau, Milan Mihalek, and Steve Bernier has played Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals the last two years.

And while we’re on hockey, Janblurr put up a post last week on the state of German professional hockey and some of the issues currently facing the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

On with the bullet points…

  • On April 18, Hanshin’s Tomoaki Kanemoto failed to play every inning of his team’s game for the first time since 1999, ending his “full inning” streak at 1492. Just think about that for a second. 1492 games without missing an inning, from age 31 to 42. Kanemoto did make a pinch hit appearance, so his consecutive game streak is alive.
  • Roberto Petagine updates: Petagine will make his SoftBank debut during the interleague games in May at the earliest, and word is he’ll retire after his time in Fukuoka. Roberto’s 62 year-old wife Olga will be accompanying him to Japan.
  • Randy Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Seibu game last week.
  • One of my players to watch, Romash Tasuku Dass, made his first ichi-gun start of 2010 last week. The results? Not impressive. I didn’t see the game but he featured mostly a mid-80’s fastball, and got knocked out of the game early. Deanna was right.
  • Casey Fossum also made his Japan debut last week, throwing six shutout innings in a Tigers win. His velocity wasn’t great either.
  • SoftBank worked out Michael Olmsted and JD Durbin. Based on the Nikkan Sports write-up, Olmsted was the more impressive of the two, striking out six of nine batters faced. Durbin struck out four of 11. I’m not sure if these were live batters or in a simulated game scneario.

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SoftBank Brings Petagine Back to Japan

» 15 April 2010 » In npb » 9 Comments

Looking for another power hitter, the SoftBank Hawks have pulled former NPB star Roberto Petagine off the scrap heap, signing him to a $400k deal with performance bonuses. Petagine previously played for Yakult from 1999-2002, where he was an absolute terror, before Yomiuri signed him to replace Hideki Matsui’s bat. Since leaving Japan, Petagine has spent time with the Red Sox, Mariners and LG Twins of Korea.

Petagine joins a rather crowded 1B/3B/DH/LF depth chart. I figure whatever at-bats he gets will come at the expense of Lee Beom-Ho. Nobuhiro Matsuda seems to be getting most of the starts at third, relegating Lee to a bench role despite his superior OPS (.741 vs .691). Hiroki Kokubo (1B) and Jose Ortiz (LF) are off to good starts, and Nobuhiko Matsunaka is SoftBank’s DH, even though he’s not the hitter he once was.

Two other questions remain:

  1. How much of his wife, who is about 30 years older, be seen at Fukuoka Dome? She was ever-present in Roberto’s Yakult days.
  2. Will Tuffy Rhodes get another shot? (Rakuten? Nippon Ham?) Petagine is, of course, playing for a fraction of what Rhodes turned down from Orix.

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Q & A: World Baseball with Bruce Baskin

» 23 July 2009 » In international baseball » 3 Comments

I first learned of Bruce Baskin’s World Baseball Today radio program and website when he left a comment on my post on world baseball from earlier in the year. I checked out the site and was immediately impressed by the breadth of the content. I contacted Bruce with some questions about the state of baseball around the world today, and he was kind enough to share his insight.

NPB Tracker: Can you describe your website, podcast and radio show?

Bruce Baskin: World Baseball Today has primarily been a radio program on Radio Miami International since 2007. WRMI is a 50,000-watt shortwave station that can reach listeners on all continents when weather conditions are right, and they’ve been running WBT Sunday mornings at 10:30 Eastern since Day One. The show is also repeated 2-3 times later in the week, depending on how their schedule goes. WRMI’s owner-GM, Jeff White, is president of the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters, and he’s been super to work with. It’s been a really nice fit.

The WBT blog and podcasts have both been pretty ancillary, to be honest. Once I’m done producing the radio program and mp3 it to Miami, I’ll post the text on the blogsite and upload the program audio to the podcast site, although I’ve been having “issues” with Podbean, which is the server for the podcasts, and I haven’t been able to make the program available
for online listeners. Really kind of frustrating.

NT: What sources do you use to gather the information for your site? Do you have English-language sources for all these leagues?

BB: Most of my sources have been in English, although I do use Google translations from time to time… sometimes THOSE need translating as well. I go through MLB.com’s story archives for major league news, MILB.com for stories from the Mexican League and, surprisingly, the Caribbean winter leagues… they really cover those well. I’ve found BaseballdeCuba.com to be a good source for the Cuban National Series, although sometimes you have to do a little digging for stuff.

There are a lot of good sources for baseball in Asia: JapaneseBaseball.com, NPBTracker.com and JapanBall.com are all good for stories about the Central and Pacific Leagues, and JapaneseBaseball.com is a good starting point for news from South Korea and Taiwan, too. There are also three good blogs I use. EastWindupChronicle.com is a good one, and there’s also TaiwanBaseball.com and KoreaBaseball.com. I’ve found the Baseball Philippines website to be informative, although it’s a little incomplete and runs behind sometimes.

For European baseball, there’s a very good “one-stop” website called Mister-Baseball.com that I use almost exclusively for stories from the leagues there. It’s an absolute dream for anyone tracking all the national leagues over there.

NT: Where are we seeing baseball growing in popularity?

BB: I’m not sure there’s any one place where the game is really exploding, but it seems to be growing fairly quickly in Southeast Asia. Indonesia and Thailand have decent national teams, and I know there’s a lot of interest in building the game in Vietnam and Cambodia. I have to admit I was surprised at how well Pakistan and Sri Lanka did in the Asia Games earlier this year because cricket is THE big sport in both places. This is one region where baseball could do something in the next few years.

I think there’s a slow but steady growth in Europe, although soccer is by far the biggest sport pretty much everywhere. The two wins over the Dominican Republic by The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic were huge for European baseball, but I’m not sure that’s translated into a growth spurt.

There are some MLB teams opening academies in Brazil, so that might be a place to keep an eye on, too. There are some great athletes down there.

NT: Conversely, the Internet is making information more available than ever before. Are we seeing an increase in interest in international baseball from American fans?

BB: I think there’s been some increase in interest, but Americans are pretty insular when it comes to sports and culture. For instance, sports fans will watch the biggest events, like soccer’s World Cup or Olympics basketball, but that hasn’t translated into those same people following English Premier League soccer or pro basketball in Spain or Italy, for instance. Generally speaking, if the USA isn’t directly involved in something, we don’t tend to pay attention.

The World Baseball Classic is potentially a terrific showcase for international baseball, but you seem to hear almost as much complaining and criticism of the WBC as you do praise among Americans. I’ve felt for a while that if the WBC were whittled down to a one-week midsummer tournament exclusively in American ballparks, interest would grow in it. Right now, it’s a little bit long for American fans, and having it during spring training seems to offend some people, including baseball people. I am no fan of Bud Selig, but I applaud his desire to see the WBC succeed. As a fan of the sport, I love the WBC.

NT: Where is the next source of international talent?

BB: There’s a lot of effort to develop talent in Europe, and I think we’re starting to see MLB teams get more involved with tryout camps and short-term academies over there. I’ve mentioned Southeast Asia as a potential breeding ground, and there’s plenty of room to grow the game in places like South America and the Indian subcontinent. The difficulty baseball faces right now is that in these countries, they’re dealing with raw athletes and not ballplayers because people don’t generally grow up playing baseball.

I’m very interested in seeing how those two young pitchers the Pirates signed out of India do, because that’s a country of over a billion people with a total mania for another bat-and-ball sport, cricket. Baseball and cricket are obviously two different sports, but they share some very basic elements.

I have to admit I’m not very optimistic about mainland China’s chances of becoming a baseball hotbed. There has been a lot of time, effort and money spent trying to develop baseball there, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on. They’re already demolishing the two stadiums used for baseball in the Beijing Olympics, and I don’t foresee the government getting behind the sport…and if the Chinese government ain’t behind something, it ain’t gonna succeed.

NT: What are your favorite leagues to follow as a fan?

BB: You know, I’ve kind of gotten into Baseball Philippines a bit over the past couple of years. The BP website is a little incomplete and inconsistent at times, and it was really hard to track them last fall, but I love the passion Jonas Terrado has in his game accounts. He cares, and it shows. I’ve enjoyed following guys like Vio Roxas, Vladimir Eguia and the Laurel brothers (Jay and Matt). The Philippines has a lot of potential in baseball. It’s a country with over 100 million people and baseball’s a fairly popular sport there. I’ve thought the American military presence there for so many decades should’ve led to baseball’s growth in the same way it’s grown in other countries we’ve occupied in the past, but it just hasn’t worked out.

Another place whose leagues I enjoy following is Mexico. Only place in the world where pro baseball is played year-round, and there’s a great history of the sport there. I spent two years writing about Mexican baseball online with a column called “Viva Beisbol,” and I was really surprised how popular it became. Overwhelmed, actually, because “Viva Beisbol” was just a creative outlet for me on the OurSportsCentral.com website and I had zero expectations in terms of public interest. However, there were about 6-7 other websites that picked it up and carried it, including the Mexican Pacific League’s official website. To this day, that’s probably the biggest honor I’ve ever gotten in writing or broadcasting.

NT: What’s next for World Baseball Today?

BB: Ironically, I’m getting back into Mexican baseball in August. I’ve decided to sort of revive “Viva Beisbol” as a radio program called “Baseball Mexico” on WRMI, and it will replace “World Baseball Today” on Sunday mornings.

It was a tough choice to make because I’ve had fun covering all the different leagues that are out there, but I’ve gotten frustrated because the nature of WBT has made it an “inches deep, miles wide” type of program. A lot of what I’ve been doing with WBT has been somewhat redundant because I’m giving out information already available to fans online, and my past experience with “Viva Beisbol” indicates a lot of interest among Americans in Mexican baseball, especially people in border states like Texas, Arizona and California.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop following baseball in other leagues. I want to see who wins the Pacific League pennant in Japan, whether Puerto Cruz runs the table during the playoffs in Spain, and what kind of numbers Roberto Petagine ends up with in Korea.

NT: Thanks Bruce!

1. Can you describe your website, podcast and radio show?

World Baseball Today has primarily been a radio program on Radio Miami International since 2007.  WRMI is a 50,000-watt shortwave station that can reach listeners on all continents when weather conditions are right, and they’ve been running WBT Sunday mornings at 10:30 Eastern since Day One.  The show is also repeated 2-3 times later in the week, depending on how their schedule goes.  WRMI’s owner-GM, Jeff White, is president of the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters, and he’s been super to work with.  It’s been a really nice fit.

The WBT blog and podcasts have both been pretty ancillary, to be honest.  Once I’m done producing the radio program and mp3 it to Miami, I’ll post the text on the blogsite and upload the program audio to the podcast site, although I’ve been having “issues” with Podbean, which is the server for the podcasts, and I haven’t been able to make the program available
for online listeners.  Really kind of frustrating.

2. What sources do you use to gather the information for your site? Do you have English-language sources for all these leagues?

Most of my sources have been in English, although I do use Google translations from time to time..sometimes THOSE need translating as well.  I go through MLB.com’s story archives for major league news, MILB.com for stories from the Mexican League and, surprisingly, the Caribbean winter leagues…they really cover those well.  I’ve found BaseballdeCuba.com to be a good source for the Cuban National Series, although sometimes you have to do a little digging for stuff.

There are a lot of good sources for baseball in Asia:  JapaneseBaseball.com, NPBTracker.com and JapanBall.com are all good for stories about the Central and Pacific Leagues, and JapaneseBaseball.com is a good starting point for news from South Korea and Taiwan, too.  There are also three good blogs I use.  EastWindupChronicle.com is a good one, and there’s also TaiwanBaseball.com and KoreaBaseball.com.  I’ve found the Baseball Philippines website to be informative, although it’s a little incomplete and runs behind sometimes.

For European baseball, there’s a very good “one-stop” website called Mister-Baseball.com that I use almost exclusively for stories from the leagues there.  It’s an absolute dream for anyone tracking all the national leagues over there.

3. Where are we seeing baseball growing in popularity?

I’m not sure there’s any one place where the game is really exploding, but it seems to be growing fairly quickly in Southeast Asia.  Indonesia and Thailand have decent national teams, and I know there’s a lot of interest in building the game in Vietnam and Cambodia.  I have to admit I was surprised at how well Pakistan and Sri Lanka did in the Asia Games earlier this year because cricket is THE big sport in both places.  This is one region where baseball could do something in the next few years.

I think there’s a slow but steady growth in Europe, although soccer is by far the biggest sport pretty much everywhere.  The two wins over the Dominican Republic by The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic were huge for European baseball, but I’m not sure that’s translated into a growth spurt.

There are some MLB teams opening academies in Brazil, so that might be a place to keep an eye on, too.  There are some great athletes down there.

4. Conversely, the Internet is making information more available than ever before. Are we seeing an increase in interest in international baseball from American fans?

I think there’s been some increase in interest, but Americans are pretty insular when it comes to sports and culture.  For instance, sports fans will watch the biggest events, like soccer’s World Cup or Olympics basketball, but that hasn’t translated into those same people following English Premier League soccer or pro basketball in Spain or Italy, for instance.  Generally speaking, if the USA isn’t directly involved in something, we don’t tend to pay attention.

The World Baseball Classic is potentially a terrific showcase for international baseball, but you seem to hear almost as much complaining and criticism of the WBC as you do praise among Americans.  I’ve felt for a while that if the WBC were whittled down to a one-week midsummer tournament exclusively in American ballparks, interest would grow in it.  Right now, it’s a little bit long for American fans, and having it during spring training seems to offend some people, including baseball people.  I am no fan of Bud Selig, but I applaud his desire to see the WBC succeed.  As a fan of the sport, I love the WBC.

5. Where is the next source of international talent?

There’s a lot of effort to develop talent in Europe, and I think we’re starting to see MLB teams get more involved with tryout camps and short-term academies over there.  I’ve mentioned Southeast Asia as a potential breeding ground, and there’s plenty of room to grow the game in places like South America and the Indian subcontinent.  The difficulty baseball faces right now is that in these countries, they’re dealing with raw athletes and not ballplayers because people don’t generally grow up playing baseball.

I’m very interested in seeing how those two young pitchers the Pirates signed out of India do, because that’s a country of over a billion people with a total mania for another bat-and-ball sport, cricket.  Baseball and cricket are obviously two different sports, but they share some very basic elements.

I have to admit I’m not very optimistic about mainland China’s chances of becoming a baseball hotbed.  There has been a lot of time, effort and money spent trying to develop baseball there, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.  They’re already demolishing the two stadiums used for baseball in the Beijing Olympics, and I don’t foresee the government getting behind the sport…and if the Chinese government ain’t behind something, it ain’t gonna succeed.

6. What are your favorite leagues to follow as a fan?

You know, I’ve kind of gotten into Baseball Philippines a bit over the past couple of years.  The BP website is a little incomplete and inconsistent at times, and it was really hard to track them last fall, but I love the passion Jonas Terrado has in his game accounts.  He cares, and it shows.  I’ve enjoyed following guys like Vio Roxas, Vladimir Eguia and the Laurel brothers.  The Philippines has a lot of potential in baseball.  It’s a country with over 100 million people and baseball’s a fairly popular sport there.  I’ve thought the American military presence there for so many decades should’ve led to baseball’s growth in the same way it’s grown in other countries we’ve occupied in the past, but it just hasn’t worked out.

Another place whose leagues I enjoy following is Mexico.  Only place in the world where pro baseball is played year-round, and there’s a great history of the sport there.  I spent two years writing about Mexican baseball online with a column called “Viva Beisbol,” and I was really surprised how popular it became.  Overwhelmed, actually, because “Viva Beisbol” was just a creative outlet for me on the OurSportsCentral.com website and I had zero expectations in terms of public interest.  However, there were about 6-7 other websites that picked it up and carried it, including the Mexican Pacific League’s official website.  To this day, that’s probably the biggest honor I’ve ever gotten in writing or broadcasting.

7. What are your plans for the future?

Ironically, I’m getting back into Mexican baseball in August.  I’ve decided to sort of revive “Viva Beisbol” as a radio program called “Baseball Mexico” on WRMI, and it will replace “World Baseball Today” on Sunday mornings.

It was a tough choice to make because I’ve had fun covering all the different leagues that are out there, but I’ve gotten frustrated because the nature of WBT has made it an “inches deep, miles wide” type of program. A lot of what I’ve been doing with WBT has been somewhat redundant because I’m giving out information already available to fans online, and my past experience with “Viva Beisbol” indicates a lot of interest among Americans in Mexican baseball, especially people in border states like Texas, Arizona and California.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop following baseball in other leagues.  I want to see who wins the Pacific League pennant in Japan, whether Puerto Cruz runs the table during the playoffs in Spain, and what kind of numbers Roberto Petagine ends up with in Korea.

Continue reading...

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