Matt Winters is a professional scout for the Nippon Ham Fighters, with whom he played from 1990 to 1994.
A first-round pick of the New York Yankees, Winters played for Triple-A Columbus from 1983 to 1985. During that time he was a teammate of future American League sluggers Don Mattingly and Steve Balboni and outhit both of them.
In April, Softbank Hawks professional scout Kent Blasingame spoke about growing up in Japan’s game, the controversies that attached themselves to his father, a well-respected student and teacher of the game, bringing overseas Amateurs to Japan and the Hawks’ success.
The son of former Nankai Hawks second baseman Don “Blazer” Blasingame, Kent spent much of his childhood in Japan, soaking up the Japanese game at Osaka’s Namba Stadium.
After two years in the Phillies organization as a player, Kent became a Pacific Rim scout for major league teams. When the SoftBank Hawks reorganized their front office after the 2009 season, Blasingame was brought into an outfit that was an ocean away from the franchise he knew from his childhood.
Blazer comes to Japan
I’ve read in different places that Don Blasingame literally wrote the book about how to play Japanese baseball, that a manual he wrote became gospel to coaches around the country, but I’ve yet to ever see a copy of it. Nevertheless, Blasingame, Katsuya Nomura were icons of hard-nose, heads-up baseball despite working for a club long past its glory years.
Raised on Japanese baseball
Blasingame talks about his first experiences in Japan’s game, taking trains as a youngster from his family’s home in Kobe to the Nankai Hawks’ rundown ballpark.
Blazer’s end game
Don Blasingame’s first managing gig with the Hanshin Tigers ended controversially, and was written about in Robert Whiting’s “You Gotta Have Wa.” Kent had a front-row seat to the controversy that ended in his dad quitting the Tigers.
What makes SoftBank special
Blasingame talks about the Hawks’ special advantage. It’s not money, but rather how they’ve used the money to get better, as he spells out, particularly in regards to their domestic scouting. He cites the size of the players in an anecdote about former Giants scout Nate Minchey commenting on how tall the young Hawks players were.
This really got me wondering about the state of the two leagues and researching whether or not the Hawks or other PL teams might just be better at developing bigger and stronger players.
I did a fairly long study on this, which I won’t bore you with, but while new NPB players have gradually been getting younger, taller and heavier over the past 12 years, the PL teams have caught up in terms of the sizes of the players they have drafted, and while they used to lag behind the CL in making their players bigger, they’re about even now.
The Hawks’ new players do tend to be the youngest and taller than most other teams, but there is no clear and obvious evidence that they are getting bigger and stronger than any other teams’ players.
The next wave
What is up with Carter Stewart Jr., and are overseas amateurs turning pro in Japan and being developed by NPB teams the next wave. As much as a lot of us see this as a big potential opportunity for Japanese teams, Blasingame said there are simply too many hurdles in the way of this turning into a thing, yet.
Gita in Puerto Rico
I want to meet the baseball fan who doesn’t love Yuki “Gita” Yanagita. This guy is a treasure. Blasingame talks about the Hawks star and the tutoring he got in Puerto Rico from Alex Cora and Ivan Rodriguez.