Tag Archives: Masato Yoshii

Camp fires: March 6, 2024

My spring began Wednesday.

Japan’s spring training starts from Feb. 1, but unless I’m going to visit a camp somewhere, my baseball year doesn’t really get cranking until teams venture up to the Kanto region for preseason games.

The first game up here was Tuesday in Yokohama, but I was off with my wife and it was rainy, so I waited until Wednesday, when my iPhone said it would be only cold and windy in Yokohama. This morning’s rain was a bonus I guess.

The rain meant no BP in the stadium and precious little activity. The good news was that DeNA’s media sphincter has relaxed enough to let the vermin of the press set foot on the field before games en route to the camera pit, where we were prohibited from entering last year.

My lone DeNA interaction was with coach Beavis, AKA Hiroyasu Tanaka, who I swear would be smiling if it were raining cockroaches and he had to stand there without an umbrella.

On the Lotte side, I stopped to say hi to manager Masato Yoshii, who was sitting in the dugout with their veteran PR guy Noriaki Kajiwara. When I stepped into the dugout I explained why I hadn’t been to the parks much, and told Yoshii that Kajiwara was always a big help for me, to which he either guessed I was being polite or just used it to get a laugh, saying “Really?” and giving me a “You’re kidding right?” look.

I asked if I was breaking the rules by standing in the dugout, and Kajiwara said, “We’ll since we’re not practicing, no.”

And with that Yoshii and I had a five-minute chat, probably the first time we’ve been one-on-one since the season he returned from MLB and was pitching for Orix. It was certainly the first time I’d said anything to him since he was coaching Shohei Ohtani with the Marines in 2016.

Yoshii had some interesting things to say, which I’ll post this week, and things only got better from there. I had a long chat with the Marines veteran interpreter, Takafumi Yajima, who told me this was his 30th season. Man does time fly. He said he was hired after interviewing with first-year Marines coach Len Sakata ahead of the 1995 season, which was the first of two house-of-mirrors seasons Bobby Valentine had in Chiba.

We reminisced a good while before I let him get out of the rain, and as I was going to leave, two gentlemen said hi and introduced themselves as agents working for Don Nomura’s Amuse agency. One was former Rakuten Eagle Fernando Luciano, and by the time I left Yokohama for the office and my day job, Fernando and his colleague and I had a fantastic time telling stories over lunch near the ballpark.

I also had a chat with new Marines import James Dykstra, and he was informative.

Like I said, it felt good to be back. I really missed this pre-COVID existence.

Camp fires: Feb. 25, 2024

Ideally, the preseason is about good news, baseball being played, players fine-tuning their games for the regular season, guys coming back from injury setback. But the flip side is players getting hurt before the start of the season.

The Chunichi Dragons looking to have left-handed ace Yudai Ono, the 2019 Sawamura Award winner, back after his 2023 season ended in surgery after one game, but went into camp without their top draft pick from 2023, Asia University pitcher Sho Kusaka, who felt discomfort in January and is now having or has already had Tommy John surgery.

Continue reading Camp fires: Feb. 25, 2024