Tag Archives: high school baseball

NPB 2020 7-25 games and news

Professional baseball 2020: Day 105

Dragons win high school style

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.

Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.

Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.

Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.

“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.

Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”

New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The ultimate sacrifice

Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.

This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.

The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.

BayStars continue to rock

The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.

Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.

Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.

Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes

Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.

Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.

Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants

Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback

Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout

Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.

Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.

Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th

Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.

With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.

Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.

Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.

Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera

The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.

Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.

The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.

The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”

Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.

Active roster moves 7/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF59Seiya Matsubara
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP26Ren Nakata
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
CarpP14Daichi Osera
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
LionsIF99Ernesto Mejia

Dectivated

LionsIF39Wu Nien-ting
LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi

Virus hits japan’s baseball omelet Factory

For the first time, Japan’s national high school baseball championship was canceled for a reason other than war or civil unrest — a wave of “rice” riots that swept Japan in the summer of 1918.

A president with the tournament’s sponsor, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, spoke eloquently on Wednesday about how holding the tournament would not only endanger players but tournament staff while asking volunteers turn away from essential work in communities where they are badly needed in the battle against the “invisible coronavirus.”

After that display of passion and understanding, the head of the Japan High School Baseball Federation, Eiji Atta droned on about the mythical importance of the tournament for not only the physical well-being of Japan but for the moral educational value baseball provides.

His sermon was complete with the disinformation that makes Japanese high school baseball ideologues so entertaining.

The press conference opened with the news that both the finals and the regional tournaments, whose winners advance to the finals, had all been canceled together by the stakeholders in Wednesday’s meeting.

Hatta then said nobody but regional federations would decide whether to hold or cancel their tournaments. That’s like Donald Trump telling a U.S. government employee to do her job as she sees fit when she knows that not kissing his ass sufficiently is grounds for dismissal.

This happened a year and a half ago, when Niigata’s federation unilaterally established pitch limits for its spring regional tournament. The national federation, known in Japanese as “Koyaren,” responded that Niigata had no business doing anything on its own without asking permission first.

Breaking eggs

That move, which Niigata walked back on under pressure, did not occur in a vacuum but was part of a larger movement to save Japanese baseball from itself. One by one, other baseball bodies began seeking ways to prevent injuries by establishing rules to limit abusive overuse of young arms.

But by braving Koyaren’s wrath, Niigata’s move was the pebble that triggered an avalanche and opened a public debate on what had been Japanese baseball’s most sacred doctrine: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and you can’t develop truly great ballplayers without breaking bodies.”

By year’s end, the hardass ideologues at Koyaren had bitten the bullet and accepted modest pitch limits at its big national tournaments, the spring invitational and the summer finals.

For decades, reformers in Japan have sought to find a way to build strong young bodies, arms and elbows within a system that seems bent on destroying them. And just when it seemed like progress was only a few years away, the whole system crashes.

“We were going to take the first step into the future,” said Hatta, whose body for years had screamed and kicked in an effort to forestall that future.

Pandemic vs epidemic

Despite cleaner air, wildlife reclaiming suburban streets and Venetian canals, there is no bright side to the coronavirus pandemic. At best, it’s Alien vs Predator, where there’s little we can do but shelter in place and see what’s left.

The best thing about youth sports in Japan is the lack of travel teams and coaches selling parents that “the only way for their talented children to make it professionally is to specialize and practice the sport year-round.”

The bad things about youth sports in Japan is a school system that replicates the intense year-round physical burden of travel teams — without the need to go anywhere! Your children’s bodies can be pushed past the limits of endurance and given no time to recover at their school club activity. Year-round practice? You’ve got it.

I don’t mean to be flip, but amid the debris and human misery left in the wake of the pandemic will be young children in Japan whose bodies’ biggest need was the rest that school closures provided them.

Looking out for the kids

School closures were one reason given for canceling the national championships.

“Ballplayers who have lacked practice will be at a higher risk for injury,” Hatta said, again without any sense of irony in his voice.

Don’t forget that nine months ago, a high school coach was roasted nationwide for not starting his best pitcher in the final of Iwate Prefecture’s tournament, where a berth at the finals at Koshien Stadium was on the line. The manager did so to protect the youngster’s arm.

The line used by so many was, “I could see it if he WAS hurt, but this is Koshien! How dare you throw away his dream and that of his teammates on the grounds that it might save wear and tear on an arm (that had already seen extensive use over the past five days)?”

Summer HS championship faces cancellation

The Japan High School Baseball Federation will decide on Wednesday whether or not to cancel its 102nd national championship, Japan’s most iconic sports event, at Koshen Stadium in light of the current public health crisis.

The federation’s second-biggest tournament, March’s national invitational, was canceled.

From Friday, the government-issued state of emergency was lifted in 39 prefectures. The Nikkan Sports reports that 20 of the 35 prefectural federations that replied to their inquiries indicated they will hold their annual summer tournaments regardless of whether the national championships are held or not.

According to the report, Tokyo’s federation is still planning to hold its tournament in some form.

High school body sets limits, kind of

For the first time in its history, Japan’s national high school baseball federation set pitch limits for its games and those organized by prefectural federations.

Kyodo News’ English language story is HERE.

The move is for three years starting from next spring’s national invitational. During the time the rule is in effect pitchers will ONLY be allowed to throw 500 pitches over any seven-day period, but will be able to pitch on back-to-back days, although not on three straight days.

The move comes 11 months after Niigata Prefecture’s high school body implemented its own measures and was shouted down by the national federation. But without Niigata going out on a limb and without some strong words of support from the head of Japan’s Sports Agency, Daichi Suzuki, it is an open question whether the national body — which had resisted considering pitch counts for so long — would have acted.

Still, it’s a positive step, and the mere fact that is coming from a body that has in the past seemed so intransigent, could have an oversized impact on the amateur baseball landscape.

Area coach holds efficient practice

This is not from the Onion or the Rising Wassabi. However, when the manager of a Japanese high school team limits his practices to 2-1/2 hours, it has a chance to be a national news item with a headline worthy of those satirical news sites.

Here’s the Sports Nippon Annex story HERE.

On Tuesday, 33-year-old Christopher Robert Kawamoto Boothe — known as Robert Kawamoto in Japan — won his first official game as manager of Hachioji Jissenchugakko High School, beating Meiji Gakuin Higashi Murayama High 11-7 in the first round of Western Tokyo’s summer tournament.

The Japanese story’s headline reads: “1st game for ‘Robert-san’ shows improvement from revolutionary 2-1/2 hour efficient practices”

Boothe, who grew up in Japan as the son of a Japanese mother and American ballplayer, signed with the Dodgers after he was not selected out of Asia University in NPB’s 2007 amateur draft. He appears to have played three seasons in the low minors. Since 2012 he has played mostly in Japan’s independent minors with a brief stopover in Taiwan with the Lamigo Monkeys.

He was hired this spring, and Boothe has asked his players to call him “Robert-san” instead of “Manager Kawamoto” as is customary.

The team captain said, “We are close to Robert-san. He patiently works out our mechanical issues, and reminds us that rest time is for getting rest.”

According to the story, the manager has also revolutionized the players’ workloads, reducing practices to 2-1/2 hours.

Changes coming to old school rules

Pitching limits are coming to the tradition-bound world of high school baseball.

On Friday, a panel researching measures to prevent pitching injuries decided to include defined limits on pitcher usage for Japan’s prestigious national tournaments. The panel will consider specific numbers for mandated rest and maximum pitches when it next convenes in September.

The panel concluded that hard limits were needed upon reviewing research data on youth baseball players presented by Dr. Takashi Masatomi, an orthopaedic surgeon employed by the National High School Baseball Federation’s medical committee.

“The doctor’s evidence was clear,” said the panel’s chairman Keio University professor Takanobu Nakajima said. “No opinions were expressed in opposition to placing limits on how many pitches can be thrown within a specific time period.”

“The schedule for the end of the tournament will become tight, but the talk was that restrictions are probably necessary.”

The panel will convene four times by early November and present its findings to the national federation’s board of directors at the end of that month.

The unlimited use of pitchers that saw Kanaashi Nogyo High School pitcher Kosei Yoshida throw 881 pitches at last summer’s national finals. The pitcher was gassed in the final, when he pitched for the fourth time in five days and got hammered.

For years, the national federation has done nothing but take baby steps toward attacking this issue, and it remains to be seen whether anything but double talk will come out of high school baseball’s national body.

The panel was only formed this March, and was seen by reformers as little more than public relations measure after the national federation in February shot down a plan by Niigata Prefecture’s federation to test pitch limits in its spring tournament.

Satoru Komiyama, a former professional pitcher who is currently the manager of Waseda University’s baseball team is on the 13-member panel, as is Japan Softball Association Vice President Taeko Utsugi. The choice of Yokohama High School manager Motonori Watanabe discouraged reformers from thinking anything might come from the committee, as Watanabe has so far publicly denied there is any need to reform the high school baseball system.