NPB’s rites of spring

Training basics

For those of you unfamiliar with spring training in Japan, here are a few things to look out for as you dive into the news coming out of the 12 teams’ camps. It’s not Mr. Baseball, although a surprising number of NPB veterans have said that movie helped them prepare mentally for things being different.

The time between Feb. 1 and Opening Day is divided into two segments. The first is called camp, the second a time for preseason exhibitions “opensen”(オーペン戦) . Camp runs for most of February, and when it ends teams move out of their spring training facilities and go from town to town playing exhibition games.

A few exhibition games typically take place before the end of spring training, although these are most commonly practice games, where the rules are flexible to suit the needs of the teams.

Despite Japan’s reputation for working to extreme, Japanese teams will train for four or five days and then take a day off. They’ll repeat that cycle until the end of camp. But don’t worry, the work gets done.

When reporters show up at the spring training facility in the morning, they’ll receive a sheet of paper explaining which player is in which training group and the different tasks they’ll be performing until early in the afternoon. What that doesn’t tell you is that players will be hitting off machines until evening or swinging or working out until after dark.

On Jan. 31, players and staff go to a local shrine to pray for success in the upcoming season. Workouts begin on Feb. 1, or at least that’s the way it used to be. Now, large numbers of players have begun showing up for group voluntary training in the days leading up to camp. Recent photos from the Yomiuri Giants camp in Miyazaki Prefecture, showed ace Tomoyuki Sugano throwing a bullpen on “Day 2 of group voluntary training.”

Help for foreign newbies

Almost every foreign player arriving for their first spring training in Japan has been told to bring running shoes. This is sound advice. Here is some more that I’ve heard from players with NPB experience:

  • Be ready to see pitchers throwing at full velocity from Day 1 and don’t try it yourself. You’ll be ready when you are ready. That won’t stop everyone else from treating the first day of camp like Opening Day. And that includes umpires. Former Hanshin Tigers reliever Jeff Williams recalled that his catcher and an umpire once got into a heated argument over balls and strikes in the bullpen on the first day of camp.
  • Remember, you know what your body needs to get ready for the season, so don’t overdo it. You may want to keep up with your teammates, but respect your own limits. Overdo it and you will impress your teammates and coaches, but that will quickly be forgotten if you don’t get results during the season. Everyday, coaches will ask you if you want to throw. What they mean is, “Is this a day you want to throw?” They are trying to understand your needs, not get you to be like your teammates.
  • If you are a first-year player with the Hanshin Tigers, however, please try to show the coaches you actually know how to hit in batting practice on Day 1. It may mean nothing to you, but coaches are grilled about new players’ BPs by the media. This is normally not an issue, but the Tigers media is overbearing and can cause even the coolest coach or manager to begin second-guessing himself about his confidence in you. At the end of his record-setting 2010 season, Matt Murton said he wished someone had told him to square up a few balls on the first day so the coaches could relax.
  • Listen to the coaches. They might not have played in the majors although some have, but they care about the game and can often help you adjust to Japanese ball. Pitchers learn to throw certain pitches better (Scott Mathieson‘s slider) , develop a new pitch (Dennis Sarfate‘s split) or go back to pitches they’d been dissuaded from using in America (Jeremy Powell‘s curveball).
  • Be ready to have a good slide step. Base stealing may not be a thing anymore in the States, but you will be judged on how quickly you get to the plate with runners on–and get used to a coach who walked 1,000 hitters in his career to tell you that Japanese pitchers don’t walk batters.
  • For batters, it’s the same story. The coaches seem less inclined to fine tune hitters mechanics than they do pitchers, but they can often tell you what to expect and how catchers will try to attack you. In the end, however, it’s about sticking with those things that work for you and finding ways to apply your strengths in an environment where fastballs are harder to predict and a lot of pitchers have really good location with all their pitches.
  • Take advantage of the massages. While the quality of the strength, fitness and conditioning programs vary from team to team, Japanese clubs are really good at massage therapy.

If anyone has anything to add or phrase better, or you just want to tell me what a load of crummy advice I’m pedaling, please leave a comment or hit me up on twitter.

Senga strikes out

Right-hander Kodai Senga said he made no progress in persuading the SoftBank Hawks to allow him to move to the major leagues through the posting system following his dinner with the team’s president, Yoshimitsu Goto.

Senga, who is a top target of MLB scouts visiting Japan, will not be eligible for international free agency until after the 2022 season. So unless the Hawks break ranks with the other team opposed to posting, the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants, Senga will have to wait until the autumn of 2022, or move as a domestic free agent after the 2020 season to a team that is willing to post him or holdout and refuse to sign a contract for 2020 until the Hawks trade him or accede to his wishes.

As unlikely as it seems, there are precedents for this in Japan. Yoshio Itoi held out for more money from the Nippon Ham Fighters after the 2012 season and the club traded him to the Orix Buffaloes. Ironically, the cover story was that the team traded him because they refused to post him. When I asked him about his desire to play in the major leagues a year later, he looked at me like I had two heads.

Following the 2002 season, the Kintetsu Buffaloes bungled the posting paperwork for reliever Akinori Otsuka and he was unable to go to the States that winter. As a result, he held out until Kintetsu assigned his contract to the Chunichi Dragons, where he pitched for one year before being posted.

That is a highly unusual example since NPB clubs treat players cast off in that fashion as if they carried highly contagious diseases. When Norihiro Nakamura left Orix after a contract dispute, 10 teams wouldn’t even give him a tryout. The same went for Daisuke Matsuzaka a year ago. Although he was a free agent, one guesses the Hawks spread some less-than complimentary stories about the right-hander, whom they wanted to re-sign at a bargain price.

The common thread in these last three examples is the Central League’s Dragons. They signed Otsuka, and were the only club to give tryouts to Nakamura and Matsuzaka.

In the early days of the current free agent system, the then-Daiei Hawks had a hardline policy against negotiating with their players who filed for free agency, but that flew out the window after the 1999 season, when their top pitcher, Kimiyasu Kudo, filed for free agency, and the Hawks got in line to try and persuade him to stay in Fukuoka.

The Hawks will change their stance, but only after a player they covet in the draft tells them to agree to post him or drop dead — although using nicer language than that.

The Heisei ERA

Heisei ERA = 平成の防御率

英語で「平成」って言うと”Heisei Era”になります。発音は違いますけど、”era” と”ERA (防御率)”はにっているから、平成の一番低い防御率を持っている投手は誰だったかなと思いました。下に平成の防御率トップ10に乗せました。

Top Heisei ERA

I asked this question on Twitter and got it wrong. For some reason my database didn’t sort the way I expected it to and spit out two wrong pitchers among the top three in ERA during Japan’s Heisei Era. Here are the top 10 ERAs in the Heisei era among pitchers with 1,000 innings or more in NPB from 1989 to 2018 — at least prior to the Emperor’s abdication on April 30.

PitcherInningsERA
Yu Darvish 1,268 1/3 1.99
Tomoyuki Sugano1,086 1/32.17
Masahiro Tanaka13152.30
Kenta Maeda1,5092.39
Masaki Saito2,1052.76
Yusei Kikuchi1,010 2/32.77
Kazuki Yoshimi1,249 2/32.85
Toshiya Sugiuchi2,091 1/32.95
Daisuke Matsuzaka1,4592.99
Takayuki Kishi1,856 1/33.00

Other Heisei Era rankings

ほかの投手成績ランキング

PitcherTotal Innings
Masahiro Yamamoto3,297 2/3
Daisuke Miura3,276
Masanori Ishikawa2,670 1/3
Kimiyasu Kudo2,597 1/3
Fumiya Nishiguchi2,527 2/3
PitcherWinning Pct.
Kazumi Saito.775
Masahiro Tanaka.739
Tsuyoshi Wada.710
Tomoyuki Sugano.656
Masahiro Tanaka.650
PitcherStrikeouts
Daisuke Miura2,481
Kimiyasu Kudo2,287
Masahiro Yamamoto2,272
Toshiya Sugiuchi2,156
Kazuhisa Ishii2,115

NPB umps singing new tune

Osamu Ino
Osamu Ino, NPB’s umpiring technical committee chairman.

A few years ago, a senior NPB umpire told me video review was not necessary or practical in Japan because,

  • Umpires rarely made mistakes.
  • Umpires could see things video couldn’t.
  • Owners would never absorb the costs of installing enough cameras to make such a system work.

A few days before NPB unveiled the 2019 upgrade to its video challenge format, known as the “request system,” Osamu Ino, who chairs NPB’s umpiring technical committee, explained that 80 percent of the umpires were at first opposed to the new system.

They expected heckling and abuse, loss of face, you name it.

Having watched lengthy video reviews on the three plays umpires were allowed to check on their own, home runs, catches against the outfield wall and plays at the plate, a lot of NPB watchers expected games to get even slower. Actually 2017 had seen the fastest games since 2012.

That was the last of a two-year period of ultra-dead baseballs that caused offense to plummet and resulted in a coup de e’tat to ouster then commissioner Ryozo Kato.

Since then offense and game times had been on the rise. 2018 sawa more offense than 2017, with game times jumping from an average of 3:13 to 3:18. Not great but not the catastrophe many expected.

Instead, umpires, players and managers moved on with the game, fans watched the close plays replayed on the big screens, something that had been taboo in Japanese sports up to that point, and everyone liked it.

There were complaints about the quality of the equipment available to umpires and the number of cameras — indeed I heard at least two players say, “If you’re not going to have enough cameras in all the parks don’t do it at all.” That struck me as a dumb comment then and a dumb comment now — although owners have proven themselves too cheap to provide the umpires with decent monitors for their reviews.

According to Ino, the umps went from 80 percent disapproval when they first heard of the system at the end of 2017, to 50 percent before the start of the season, to 100 percent after the season.

You can find my related story in the Japan Times here.

NPB reality: Japan’s got bunt

Although rookies have taken part in their “collective voluntary” training for a week or so this month — where they are prohibited from wearing uniforms, working with coaches or receiving pay for the work they are expected to do.

During these voluntary workouts, the volunteer laborers wear vests with their names and uniform numbers so that they are easily identifiable. The coaches and managers, who don’t take part, stand on the sidelines in street clothes and observe.

One of this year’s new faces, Akira Neo, an 18-year-old infielder who was the Chunichi Dragons’ first pick in November, suffered a calf strain during his voluntary workout. When paid labor actually begins on Feb. 1, Neo will be with the Dragon’s farm team camp in Okinawa’s isolated Yomitan Stadium.

Sunday’s news, and people get paid to report this, was that Neo practiced 230 bunts off a pitching machine. Why it might seem extreme, consider this: In the most recent ballot for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, the position player who received the second highest vote total was Masahiro Kawai, a decent player who is best known for holding NPB’s career sacrifice hit record.

So laugh if you like, but Neo apparently knows how to get to the top in Japan.

Kaneko going to next level

Four seasons after sitting at the peak of Japanese pitching, Chihiro Kaneko opted out of the Orix Buffaloes roster when his pay cut was large enough to afford him that option.

After winning the 2014 Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, the Pacific League’s MVP, and the league’s Best Nine Award for pitchers*

After that season, he had minor surgery to clean up his elbow, and has gone 30-30 over the past four seasons. Last year, Kaneko pitched in 17 games. When the big four-year-deal he signed after 2014 elapsed, Orix offered him a big pay cut. He walked and joined the Nippon Ham Fighters.

On Saturday, according to Nikkan Sports, Kaneko showed up at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, outside Tokyo. He was pulling a suitcase full of training equipment he’d learned how to use in a stint last autumn at Driveline Baseball in Seattle.

“My arm is stronger, but the training was also related to how I use my body,” Kaneko said. “I’m not focused on being a starter, middle relief or whatever is ok.”

*--It should seem obvious that an MVP would be rated by the same voters as the best player at his position, but this isn’t always the case, since the MVP is almost always handed to a player on the pennant winner–although in 2014 this wasn’t the case.

Having a Tsutsugo at Japan’s adult-centered youth ball

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo” class=”wp-image-2501″/>
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is the prototypical Japanese ball player in most respects, but he is now breaking the mold and speaking out on the ills of his nation’s youth baseball culture.

DeNA BayStars cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo asked Friday why Japan even has youth baseball if its culture values winning over teaching kids and helping them grow.

Japanese baseball is realizing there is a problem as the population shrinks but the baseball-playing population shrinks even faster. When Niigata Prefecture’s High School Baseball Federation recently took steps to protect high school pitchers’ arms in their local tournament, it was ridiculed from some quarters by those who worry that protecting kids will ruin competition.

Some people in Japan seem to think that the glory of sacrificing one’s body for the sake of their school’s victory is a good thing. One wonders if such people would be just as happy if the national high school tournament at Koshien Stadium were replaced by gladiatorial combat.

Read my story for Kyodo News here.

At his Tokyo press conference, Tsutsugo, the BayStars cleanup hitter and captain took aim at the youth sports authorities for their failure to institute rules and at coaches who forget that the game is for the kids.

“People in the baseball community are pushing for a resurgence in the sport at the youth level, but if you don’t make it fun, if you don’t protect the children, there is no point in having baseball at all,” he said.

Tsutsugo presented the results of some research by Japan’s leading Tommy John surgeon, Kozo Furushima, who has studied youth baseball injuries. One is particularly interesting, although it does involve a small group of student athletes (60) at a high school that frequently reaches the most prestigious national tournament finals at Koshien Stadium.

Of those 60, 39 had experienced elbow pain in junior high school, and 18 of those had relapses in high school. Those 18 relapses accounted for 90 percent of the elbow-pain sufferers, as only two of the 21 players felt elbow pain for the first time in high school. This suggests that fewer high school kids would be hurt if more injuries were prevented at a younger age.

Elbow pain graphic
Graphic from Dr. Kozo Furushima indicating that among 60 new high school students, only two who had not suffered elbow pain before high school had those injuries in high school.

On being disciplined and flexible in Japan and in life

Mr. Brown comes to town

Outfielder Roosevelt Brown only played in Japan for two seasons, and it didn’t provide a spring board to a longer career in the States, but the experience, he said recently, wasn’t wasted on him.

Brown joined the Orix Blue Wave in 2003, roughly three years before he went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter at Tokyo Dome for the Chicago Cubs against the New York Mets. In Las Vegas last December at the baseball winter meetings, Brown spoke about his experiences and impressions of Japan’s game.

“Guys here now really want to go over there. They’re starting to hear how good the baseball is over there,” said Brown, who upon his retirement built homes and still owns that construction company, while working as an advisor with sports training business, Vizual Edge.

The stories and the reality

“All the nightmares that I heard about, I did not seen none of those. The Japanese people took care of me and I really appreciate the hospitality of the people of Japan.”

After an excellent debut season at the age of 27, Brown could see himself finishing his career in Nippon Professional Baseball, but it didn’t happen.

Players are now turning to Japan not for their final playing paychecks from an inferior league, but as an opportunity to realize more of their potential than they had shown in the States. Often, the time spent in Japan makes them better players.

“And better people, too. You learn a lot and you improve your game,” Brown said.

“The difference with Japanese baseball is the strength. You have more stronger guys at the big league level than you do in Japan. That’s the only difference. The command of the fastball, offspeed stuff, they can command all three pitches. The players here are a lot bigger, but they just don’t have the body control that most Japanese have.”

“They (Japanese) do a lot of body weight stuff. When they take their shirts off, they look like they’ve been lifting weights. The body tissue, because of the diet with a lot of seafood, their tendons are softer so their muscles expand more than an American player who eats a lot of beef. They eat a lot of protein but with lots of seafood, so the flexibility of Japanese players is ahead of a lot of American players.”

A new approach

A frequent passenger on the Triple-A, major league shuttle, Brown began studying martial arts, to increase his flexibility and fitness. The process opened his eyes to some of the things about Japan’s game that are not readily apparent in the numbers.

“It started in 1999,” Brown said. “I wanted to increase my flexibility, because I found out that flexibility creates strength. The longer the muscles are, the more agile you can be. When I got into martial arts, I just started liking it. I put my kids in it. I took private lessons. Before I worked out I would go in about 5 am and train with my master, and after that I would go to the gym and work out with my trainer.”

“It helped me tie in the biomechanics of the swing and how to tie in my energy and put the most energy into one area. I noticed a lot of the Japanese guys at the plate had the same ability. They got the most out of their bodies.”

An audience with the king

And in Japan he had the chance to meet with a man whose practice of aikido and other martial arts had helped turn him into one of the greatest power hitters the world has ever seen.

“I had a conversation with Sadaharu Oh,” Brown said. “I was trying to figure out what was his secret to hit so many home runs because he’s so small.”

“He used his body probably better than anybody in the history of the game. He was small. The only other hitter who had that power and that size when I played was Michihiro Ogasawara. Those guys’ weight transformation through the baseball was probably better than some guys in the States. I learned a lot. It was an awesome experience.”

Two years provides just an introduction to Japan’s whys and wherefores. Although Brown gained insight into swings, training and diet, some mysteries remained unsolved. Keen to earn the respect of his teammates, he tried to be the best at whatever the BlueWave players were doing, but when it came to Japan’s training grist mill, he had to raise his hand and take a time out.

“They were overworking and I had to talk to the team and say, ‘Look, if you want me to be 100 percent in August, we need to find a better way to buffer the work,’” he said. “Because I was accustomed to training hard in the offseason and maintaining during the regular season, but those guys train in season and offseason.”

“That amazed me how well those guys stayed in shape, because they were heavy smokers. Those guys would run forever despite the fact that they smoked. I saw myself as not being able to do something like that.”

A way of life

What he could relate to were elements of the culture that meshed with his own values, the importance of craftsmanship in Japanese society that is manifested in the discipline and respect the players are nurtured in. To some Latin players, Japanese baseball can at times seem joyless, but Brown discovered learning points on and off the field.

“I learned a lot about discipline,” he said. “The culture of Japan is built on discipline and respect. I knew about respect. I was raised that way, but Japan made me take it to the next level.”

“You’ve got to embrace change when you go there. It’s their way of living and you’re going over there, and you’ve got to make those adjustments to succeed. If I hadn’t got injured, I probably would have played the rest of my career over there.”

After he got hurt in 2004, his career ended all too quickly following a good 2005 season in Triple A with the White Sox.

Endings and beginnings

“It was tough because I had to leave the game earlier than I anticipated because of injury,” he said. “It was tough, but I dealt with it. It’s part of life, and I live not through my kids, but my kids all play baseball, my family members all play baseball. It’s something I won’t ever be able to get away from. I understand that. I thought about if I would be a bitter guy, but I look back on my career and I hit .300 nine years straight. Most people don’t do that. Instead of being bitter about it, I decided I was going to take the time God gave me to better my knowledge for my kids. So I know that’s starting to translate with my kids and the people I train. I talked to a couple of people here at the winter meetings about jobs. I didn’t realize how much respect I had earned as a player.”

“Hitting a baseball is something I had a gift at. I broke my wrist in 1997 and that was the most miserable season that I had. I had a bad season. That was the first bad season I had, and I didn’t understand how to deal with failure at the plate. It helped me grow into a better hitter. Never experiencing a failure like that was difficult.”

“I had a gift and I couldn’t use it. Now I want to pass it on. What’s a gift if you can’t pass it on? That’s why I understand gifts. That’s where my heart and conviction are now.”

Former greats weigh in on high school pitch limits

The outer limits

Since Japan’s Niigata Prefecture has announced its plan to restrict pitcher usage in its spring tournament this year, three former Chunichi Dragons pitchers, two Hall of Famers Hiroshi Gondo and Shigeru Sugishita and Masahiro Yamamoto have weighed in on the issue and expressed widely divergent views.

On Jan. 15, Gondo was announced as one of the three newest members of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. The right-hander’s playing career was defined by his first two seasons. As a 22-year-old out of corporate league ball in 1961, Gondo won 35 games in his 429-1/3-inning rookie season. The following year, he pitched 362-1/3 innings and won 30 games.

Niigata’s new limits will prohibit a pitcher from starting an inning after he’d thrown 100 pitches in a game but not prohibit pitchers from pitching on consecutive days.

Save the game

“I am absolutely opposed to that (sort of restriction),” Gondo said.

“Most of those kids aren’t going to be professionals, and this will be the end of their baseball careers. You don’t want to hold them back. Besides, if you can’t pitch that much in high school without ruining your arm, there’s no way you can make it in the pros anyway.”

On the question of whether high school baseball should be about competition or education, Gondo came down solidly on the side of competition.

“You don’t want to put obstacles in the way of people playing to win,” he said. “People are going to get hurt, and you can’t alter that fact.”

I don’t want to state that as his entire philosophy on the issue, since we only spoke for a few minutes, but he certainly seemed to think that high school ball is safe enough.

Save the kids

Sugishita, whose No. 20 Gondo inherited when he joined the Dragons, wasn’t certain if Niigata’s method was the right way to go, but said, “You’ve got to do something to protect these kids’ arms.”

Yamamoto, a lock to join them in the Hall of Fame after he enters the players division ballot for the Hall’s class of 2021, was even more emphatic when he spoke on Sunday in Yokohama.

At a seminar attended by nearly 600 people that included elementary and junior high school coaches, doctors and parents, Yamamoto spoke of last year’s high school superstar, pitcher Kosei Yoshida.

At the national high school summer championship, Yoshida threw 881 pitches over six games, with four of those games coming over the final five days of the tournament.

“It’s a good thing Yoshida didn’t break down,” Yamamoto said. “But I thought that continuing like he did put the player’s career at risk.”

When Niigata’s prefectural association imposed its rules without asking the national body, the Japan High School Baseball Federation lashed out, calling the new system arbitrary and unenforceable.

But Yamamoto praised the work of Japan’s national rubber ball federation, whose guidelines limit pitchers to 70 pitches in a single game and 300 within a week.

“They have done good work to protect children’s futures,” he said.

No magic number

In a recent interview, Dr. Tsutomu Jinji, a professor of biomechanics who has extensively studied how pitchers mechanics impart movement to baseballs, said there is no magic number of pitches that will prevent injuries.

“Some people possess thicker ligaments, that can withstand more stress and torque,” he said. “Other pitchers are more flexible than others, or possess better mechanics.”

“What that means is that some pitchers’ arms will break down even with very limited usage, while others will survive much heavier workloads without any damage at all. It is possible to prevent catastrophic damage with ultrasound examinations so that pitchers whose elbows are at risk get rest, but that is not being done.”

Japan’s deep still waters

Tuffy Rhodes‘ failure to win election to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame for the fourth straight year sparked no outrage or surprise at all on Jan. 15, when this year’s voting results were announced. Several stories on this site and the Japan Times were published but barely made a ripple in the nation’s baseball consciousness.

For the past two seasons, I’ve been posting my postseason award ballots on Twitter, and they’ve received a huge amount of feedback. When I got the right to vote in Japan’s Hall of Fame for the first time in December, I thought this would get a killer response. The silence was deafening. Nobody cared.

When Kazuyoshi Tatsunami was elected, the Japanese language internet was filled with high-fiving supporters on social media and in the comments sections of news stories. Didn’t see one about Rhodes, who was easily the most qualified player on the ballot.

The table below shows the 2019 Hall of Fame votes for position players on this year’s ballot who failed to gain admission. It is sorted using career totals of Bill James‘ win shares. The “offensive categories led” column is for the big ones, runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBIs, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average. No NPB player whose led his league in more than 17 categories has not been elected to the hall — until Tuffy.

Hall of fame graphic
Position players with 25 percent of vote in 2019 Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame voting, sorted by career totals of Bill James’ win shares.

Enter the foreign media and NBC Sports’ story on Rhodes peculiar voting results. Within a few days, Japanese website Full-Count picked up on Craig Calcaterra’s story and that got 300-plus comments. You can read some of those here.

If it hadn’t been for Craig’s story, one would have thought nobody in Japan gave a hoot about the Hall of Fame, but let an overseas media outlet light a spark and the flames were visible.

I asked a fellow voter at my office, one of the guys who runs the Japanese pro baseball desk in the main (Japanese language) sports section of Kyodo News in Tokyo. He said Japanese dislike negative stories, preferring to celebrate the winners and forget about the losers.

He said he’s voted for Rhodes every year he’s been on the ballot and couldn’t figure out why he didn’t have more support, since his overall numbers place him smack in the middle of all the current Hall of Fame outfielders.

The only similar outfielder not in the hall is Masahiro Doi, who was victimized by changes to eligibility. It used to be that no who had been in uniform for five years was eligible. A few years ago the ballot was split into a players division for those who had been inactive for five to 20 years, and an experts division for anyone who has been out of uniform for six months or more.

Doi became a coach before he was eligible under the old rules. When the new rules were instituted, his career had been over for more than 20 years so he couldn’t enter the players division. He told me last year he has retired, so he’ll be on next year’s experts division ballot.