Camp fires: Feb. 2, 2024

On Friday, we were reminded of a fixture of NPB spring camps, reporters counting stuff that has little meaning to anybody and is simply a placeholder for real news.

In other news, we learned that some new dogs are learning old tricks, and we have a list of the former players who have qualified to teach student ballplayers.

Where’s the count when NPB needs him?

The 1st of many 1sts for Dickerson

This is not really about counting but about headlines. Apologies in advance for harping on this, but there is nothing Japan’s media loves than an accomplishment that is absolutely unremarkable being touted as the first of its kind.

Friday, new Chunichi Dragon Alex Dickerson cleared the fence in BP, which is good news if you were betting on that, but it was enough for the Chunichi Sports, not surprisingly the sports paper owned by the team’s parent company to put up a headline saying “Dickerson hits his first home run in Japan!

Don’t worry if you missed it, because we’ll see that headline replayed when he hits a homer in a practice game, and then in a preseason exhibition, and again when he hits one in an official game.

Japan is indeed a land of firsts.

Young Tigers trio busting down fences

Sankei Sports reported that three young Tigers, 23-year-old Kyosuke Noguchi, 22-year-old Kota Inoue, and 20-year-old Ukyo Maegawa were thrilling the fans with BP homers Friday.

Lest you worry that reporters in camp only count balls over the fence, don’t fear. Noguchi took 166 swings, 26 of which cleared the fence, while Inoue belted out 28 balls from the 133 he swung at, while Maegawa hit 16out on 112 swings.

37 pitches? Are you kidding?

A day after the news out of the Lotte Marines’ camp on Ishigakijima island was that Roki Sasaki did not throw in the bullpen, the fireballer treated the crowd to a bullpen, throwing 37 pitches.

It’s hardly the kind of workload some pitchers like to wow observers with at the start of camp, A lot of old timers like to see starting pitchers build up to 200-300-pitch bullpens in order to have the stamina to throw complete games.

Pitching coach Tomohiro “Johnny” Kuroki said it was a perfect start for the team’s star starter. “He worked carefully and appeared to be checking his feel for his different pitches.”

The reports somehow failed to note exactly how many types of each pitch Sasaki threw. Very disturbing.

Old tricks for new dogs

We had two stories of pitchers in camp today displaying pitches they learned from others.

Orix Buffaloes right-hander Kaede Yokoyama has been tutored on how to throw a splitter by one of Japan’s old masters of the delivery, Hideo Nomo, who has encouraged the youngster.

Over the winter, Yokoyama pitched for the Melbourne Aces in the Australian League, where he saved four of the 10 games he pitched with an 0.82 ERA and 13 strikeouts.

In Hiroshima’s camp, Masato Morishita said he’s learned a new grip from his slider from former Carp ace Kenta Maeda, whom he trained with over the winter.

“It’s a pitch I can use when other things aren’t working,” Morishita said.

Back to school

Hisashi Iwakuma, former SoftBank Hawks captain Nobuhiro Matsuda, two-time MVP Michihiro Ogasawara, and Ikuhiro Kiyota, who sued the Lotte Marines over wrongful dismissal after he was fingered as the cause of a COVID outbreak, one of 141 former pro baseball players cleared to coach high school and college players.

Active professionals are still banned from instructing student athletes, an artifact of NPB’s awkward history with amateur teams that have included cash payments and subsidies to amateurs as inducements to sign with those clubs.

It’s only recently that an offseason course has enabled former pros the instruction they need to qualify as baseball instructors.

Ichiro Suzuki is the most famous graduate of the program, and spends a few weekends every year visiting high schools and encouraging youngsters.

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