Every year, the Hanshin Tigers are put out of their main stadium, iconic Hanshin Koshien Stadium outside Osaka, so that high school teams from across the country can put the ballpark to the use for which it was originally intended.
The story goes that when the Tigers hit the road, their pennant hopes die, hence the name, “the Road Trip of Death.”
This raises three questions:
What is it?
How bad is it?
Why is it?
What is it?
Currently, the road trip of death typically starts on the first weekend of August, but the time between the Tigers’ final home game at Koshien and their return has varied over the years. In 1954 and 1955, it started in early July. In 1955, the Tigers were away from Koshien from July 11 to Oct. 9. Usually it’s about three weeks.
During that time, the Tigers will typically play one series of home games at another ballpark, and four series on the road.
Japan’s Nikkan Sports reported Friday the Cincinnati Reds have put a multiyear offer on the table for free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama, and are the top candidate to sign the 31-year-old, citing multiple major league sources.
The Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs have all been tied to the center fielder and leadoff hitter for the two-time defending champions of Japan’s Pacific League. Those teams met with Akiyama at December’s baseball winter meetings in San Diego.
The report says the Rays and Cubs showed the most interest early on. Akiyama broke Japan’s single-season hit records set in 2010 by Matt Murton, who is currently working in the Cubs’ front office.
The Nikkan Sports story, however, said Cincinnati has since upped the ante and a deal with the club could be concluded before the end of the year. If Akiyama moves to the Reds, he will be the storied club’s first Japanese import.
Unlike compatriots Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Shun Yamaguchi and Ryosuke Kikuchi, Akiyama is a free agent and is not bound by a signing deadline. He is represented by agent Casey Close. On Friday, Kikuchi announced he would return to the Hiroshima Carp for 2020.
Other reports, including this one from the Hochi Shimbun, indicate the San Diego Padres have recently entered the bidding for Akiyama.
Tsutsugo, who was also a fixture on Japan’s national team, has concluded a two-year deal with the Rays, while pitcher Yamaguchi has reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Kikuchi, a record-setting glove wizard, has roughly a week to sign before his rights revert to the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Central League. Yamaguchi, too, has a Jan. 2 deadline to complete his deal.
Although a good comparison to former big league outfielder Norichika Aoki, Akiyama will strike out a little more — everyone does — but drive the ball better to the opposite field.