Tag Archives: Opening Day

NPB eyes opening to fans from July 10

In a show of cautious optimism considering the resurgent number of coronavirus infections in a nation that has seriously avoided testing, Atsushi Saito, the commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball on Monday told reporters Japan’s two leagues would look to admit fans to its parks from July 10, the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday.

Link to my NPB coronavirus timeline.

After meeting online in a liaison conference with counterparts from pro soccer’s J-League and public health experts, Saito said that, government guidance permitting, up to 5,000 fans will be admitted to games from July 10.

“We believe we will be able to open the doors to fans from July 10,” Saito told reporters in an online press conference, four days after NPB’s 12 teams began their regular season three months late due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If conditions permit, the clubs hope to admit crowds up to half of their parks capacity from Aug. 1.

Confirmed new infections in Japan by date

Data provided by the ministry of health labor and welfare.

Confirmed new infections in Japan bottomed out around 20 on May 25, when the government announced the state of emergency would be lifted nationwide, and NPB announced its season would start on June 19. Since then the daily new infection rates have rebounded slightly to 40 to 60 per day.

Although a majority of people are still wearing masks, restaurants, food shops, and bars that had been shuttered or empty are now filling up, with people crowded together.

All NPB players, team and field staff were tested prior to Opening Day and no new infections were announced.

Japan’s principle means of interdicting new cases is not increased testing as was promised after the Olympics were postponed in March but to restrict entry to Japan to citizens. Non-citizens, including permanent residents, some who have lived their entire lives in Japan are not currently allowed to enter the country.

Opening Day 2020

Wayne Graczyk used to refer to these games as the lid lifter, and even after all this time I can’t think of a Giants home game at Tokyo Dome without seeing Wayne in my mind’s eye on the sideline.

Wayne’s world

We all miss you so much, from asking whether I brought a bento or whether I would eat in the media salon, “the chow hall” or go out for something to checking to see whether I brought coffee or not since he’d stopped at Mr. Donuts in Kichijoji and brought me my “Jim Allen Special” — a plain old fashioned.

Wayne, me and Phil one summer evening at Tokyo Dome.

Opening Day is always special and Wayne always made it more so. So today, all of us honor you, because like so many of the wonderful kind and hard-working players and coaches who came to Japan to ply their trade, you made Japan and Japanese baseball better. It was Wayne’s world, and we were privileged to have a place in it.

Opening Day lineups

Fighters

  1. CF Nishikawa
  2. RF Ota
  3. LF Kondo
  4. 1B Nakata
  5. DH Wang
  6. 2B Watanabe
  7. SS Ishii
  8. 3B Nomura
  9. C Usami

Lions

  1. LF Spangenberg
  2. SS Genda
  3. C Mori
  4. 1B Yamakawa
  5. 2B Tonosaki
  6. 3B Nakamura
  7. DH Kuriyama
  8. RF Kimura
  9. CF Yuji Kaneko

Eagles

  1. SS Mogi
  2. 3B Suzuki
  3. DH Blash
  4. 2B Asamura
  5. LF Shimauchi
  6. RF Romero
  7. 1B Akaminai
  8. C Ota
  9. CF Tatsumi

Buffaloes

  1. 1B Okada
  2. DH Rodriguez
  3. LF M.Yoshida
  4. RF Jones
  5. 3B Nakagawa
  6. 2B Oshiro
  7. C Wakatsuki
  8. SS Adachi
  9. CF Goto

Marines

  1. CF Fukuda
  2. DH Kakunaka
  3. LF Ogino
  4. 3B Laird
  5. RF Martin
  6. 2B Nakamura
  7. 1B Inoue
  8. C Tamura
  9. SS Fujioka

Hawks

  1. RF Uebayashi
  2. 1B Kurihara
  3. CF Yanagita
  4. DH Balentien
  5. LF Hasegawa
  6. 3B Matsuda
  7. SS Imamiya
  8. C Kai
  9. 2B Makihara

Tigers

  1. RF Itoi
  2. CF Chikamoto
  3. 3B Marte
  4. 1B Bour
  5. LF Fukudome
  6. 2B Itohara
  7. SS Kinami
  8. C Umeno
  9. P Y. Nishi

Giants

  1. 2B Yoshikawa
  2. SS Sakamoto
  3. CF Maru
  4. 3B Okamoto
  5. LF Kamei
  6. 1B Nakajima
  7. RF Parra
  8. C Kobayashi
  9. P Sugano

Dragons

  1. CF Oshima
  2. RF Hirata
  3. LF Almonte
  4. 1B Viciedo
  5. 3B Takahashi
  6. 2B Abe
  7. SS Kyoda
  8. C Kato
  9. P Ono

Swallows

  1. 1B Sakaguchi
  2. 2B Yamada
  3. LF Aoki
  4. 3B Murakami
  5. CF Shiomi
  6. RF Takai
  7. SS Escobar
  8. C Shima
  9. P Ishikawa

Carp

  1. LF Pirela
  2. 2B Kikuchi
  3. CF Nishikawa
  4. RF Suzuki
  5. 3B Mejia
  6. C Aizawa
  7. 1B Dobashi
  8. SS Tanaka
  9. Osera

BayStars

  1. CF Kajitani
  2. RF Otosaka
  3. 2B Soto
  4. LF Sano
  5. 1B Lopez
  6. 3B Miyazaki
  7. C Ito
  8. P Imanaga
  9. SS Maeda

Final countdown to 2020

The 12 teams in Japan’s two six-team leagues, the Pacific and Central, announced their 31-player active rosters for Opening Day on Thursday. All six games start at 6 pm Japan Time (5 am EDT).

My guide to Japanese pro baseball is HERE. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but there may be something there of interest. You’ll find full rosters with links to the players’ English language NPB web pages, managers’ records, team info and more.

Friday’s Opening Day match-ups:

Seibu Lions vs Nippon Ham Fighters

-At MetLife Dome: ZACH NEAL vs Kohei Arihara

Orix Buffaloes vs Rakuten Eagles

-At Kyocera Dome: Taisuke Yamaoka vs Takahiro Norimoto

Seibu Lions vs Nippon Ham Fighters

-At PayPay Dome: Nao Higashihama vs Ayumu Ishikawa

There are a variety of routes through which one can stream Japanese games outside of the country, but Pacific League TV (pay) is the one I’m most familiar with. HERE‘s my guide to that service.

Yomiuri Giants vs Hanshin Tigers

-At Tokyo Dome: Tomoyuki Sugano vs Yuki Nishi

Yakult Swallows vs Chunichi Dragons

-At Jingu Stadium: Masanori Ishikawa vs Yudai Ono

DeNA BayStars vs Hiroshima Carp

-At Yokohama Stadium: Shota Imanaga vs Daichi Osera

Opening Day active rosters

A total of 18 first-year pros made the Opening Day rosters, a rather large figure — even for a country with only one real tier of minor leagues. Players with an asterisk are still considered rookies for 2020, while those with their names in capital letters are registered as imported players.

Pacific League

Seibu Lions

PosNo.Name
P14Tatsushi Masuda
P15Tetsu Miyagawa*
P17Wataru Matsumoto
P20Shota Hamaya*
P25Katsunori Hirai
P28Ryosuke Moriwaki
P33REED GARRETT
P40Ichiro Tamura*
P44Kaito Yoza*
P48Shota Takekuma
P54ZACH NEAL
P61Kaima Taira*
C2Masatoshi Okada
C10Tomoya Mori
C37Sena Tsuge*
IF3Hotaka Yamakawa
IF4Kakeru Yamanobe*
IF5Shuta Tonosaki
IF6Sosuke Genda
IF39Wu  Nien-ting
IF60Takeya Nakamura
OF1Takumi Kuriyama
OF7Yuji Kaneko
OF9Fumikazu Kimura
OF22CORY SPANGENBERG
OF46Shohei Suzuki*
OF58Masato Kumashiro
OF72Seiji Kawagoe*

SoftBank Hawks

PosNo.Name
P11Yuki Tsumori*
P13Akira Niho
P16Nao Higashihama
P17Sho Iwasaki
P21Tsuyoshi Wada
P28Rei Takahashi
P35LIVAN MOINELO
P38Yuito Mori
P53Keisuke Izumi*
P57Shinya Kayama
P63Hiroyuki Kawahara
P66Yuki Matsumoto
C12Hiroaki Takaya
C19Takuya Kai
C31Ryoya Kurihara
IF5Nobuhiro Matsuda
IF6Kenta Imamiya
IF8Kenji Akashi
IF22Tetsuro Nishida
IF23Ukyo Shuto
IF36Taisei Makihara
IF68Masaki Miori*
IF99Keizo Kawashima
OF4WLADIMIR BALENTIEN
OF9Yuki Yanagita
OF24Yuya Hasegawa
OF32Tatsuru Yanagimachi*
OF51Seiji Uebayashi

Rakuten Eagles

PosNo.Name
P13Kohei Morihara
P14Takahiro Norimoto
P15JON THOMAS CHARGOIS
P20Tomohiro Anraku
P22Kazuhisa Makita
P28Tomohito Sakai
P32ALAN BUSENITZ
P52Taisei Tsurusaki*
P58Wataru Karashima
C2Hikaru Ota
C29Ayatsugu Yamashita
C44Yuichi Adachi
IF0Hiroto Kobukata*
IF3Hideto Asamura
IF5Eigoro Mogi
IF6Kazuya Fujita
IF7Daichi Suzuki
IF26Naoto Watanabe
IF33Ginji Akaminai
IF34Tsuyoshi Yamasaki
IF36Yasuhito Uchida
OF8Ryosuke Tatsumi
OF9STEFEN ROMERO
OF35Hiroaki Shimauchi
OF51Yuya Ogo*
OF69JABARI BLASH

Lotte Marines

PosNo.Name
P12Ayumu Ishikawa
P15Manabu Mima
P16Atsuki Taneichi
P20Taiki Tojo
P30Tsuyoshi Ishizaki
P37Fumiya Ono
P42FRANK HERRMANN
P47Yasuhiro Tanaka
P48Toshiya Nakamura*
P49CHEN KUAN-YU
P52Naoya Masuda
P58JAY JACKSON
C22Tatsuhiro Tamura
C32Toshiya Sato*
C99Tomoya Kakinuma
IF0Takashi Toritani
IF4Yudai Fujioka
IF5Hisanori Yasuda*
IF8Shogo Nakamura
IF40Koki Fukuda*
IF44Seiya Inoue
IF54BRANDON LAIRD
OF0Takashi Ogino
OF1Ikuhiro Kiyota
OF3Katsuya Kakunaka
OF7Shuhei Fukuda
OF25Hiromi Oka
OF63Koshiro Wada*
OF79LEONYS MARTIN

Nippon Ham Fighters

PosNo.Name
P14Takayuki Kato
P16Kohei Arihara
P19Chihiro Kaneko
P25Naoki Miyanishi
P29Kazutomo Iguchi
P31Toru Murata
P34Mizuki Hori
P39Ryo Akiyoshi
P47Kenya Suzuki*
P49Katsuhiko Kumon
P54Taisho Tamai
P56Mitsuo Yoshikawa
C10Yushi Shimizu
C22Shinya Tsuruoka
C30Shingo Usami
IF2Kenshi Sugiya
IF6Sho Nakata
IF9Takuya Nakashima
IF21Kotaro Kiyomiya
IF23Ryo Watanabe
IF24Yuki Nomura*
IF32Ryota Yachi
IF38Kazunari Ishii
IF58Toshitake Yokoo
OF3WANG PO-JUNG
OF4Yuya Taniguchi
OF5Taishi Ota
OF7Haruki Nishikawa
OF8Kensuke Kondo

Orix Buffaloes

PosNo.Name
P14Kazumasa Yoshida
P15Yudai Aranishi
P18Yoshinobu Yamamoto
P19Taisuke Yamaoka
P29Daiki Tajima
P32BRANDON DICKSON
P35Motoki Higa
P47Tomoyuki Kaida
P49Keisuke Sawada
P57Nobuyoshi Yamada
P95Fumiya Kanbe*
C23Torai Fushimi
C33Masato Matsui
C37Kenya Wakatsuki
IF0Shoki Katsumata*
IF3Ryoichi Adachi
IF9Koji Oshiro
IF38Shohei Kojima
IF42ADERLIN RODRIGUEZ
IF64Shinya Hirosawa*
IF67Keita Nakagawa
OF8Shunta Goto
OF10ADAM JONES
OF25Ryo Nishimura
OF34Masataka Yoshida
OF41Kodai Sano
OF50Yuya Oda
OF55Takahiro Okada

Central League

Yomiuri Giants

PosNo.Name
P12RUBBY  DE LA ROSA
P15Hirokazu Sawamura
P18Tomoyuki Sugano
P20ANGEL SANCHEZ
P28Kazuto Taguchi
P30Yohei Kagiya
P40Yuri Furukawa
P41Kota Nakagawa
P47Takahiro Fujioka
P49Thyago Vieira*
P57Kyosuke Takagi
P58Ryosuke Miyaguni
C22Seiji Kobayashi
C24Takumi Oshiro
C27Ginjiro Sumitani
C69Takaya Tanaka*
IF0Daiki Masuda*
IF5Hiroyuki Nakajima
IF6Hayato Sakamoto
IF25Kazuma Okamoto
IF29Naoki Yoshikawa
IF51Shunta Tanaka
IF52Takumi Kitamura*
IF93Dai Yuasa*
OF2Yang Dai-kang
OF8Yoshihiro Maru
OF9Yoshiyuki Kamei
OF36Shingo Ishikawa
OF43Shinnosuke Shigenobu
OF88GERARDO PARRA

DeNA BayStars

PosNo.Name
P13Hiromu Ise*
P14Kenta Ishida
P17Kazuki Mishima
P19Yasuaki Yamasaki
P21Shota Imanaga
P34Shingo Hirata
P45Michael Peoples*
P53SPENCER PATTON
P58Yuta Muto
P92Yuki Kuniyoshi
C10Yasutaka Tobashira
C29Hikaru Ito
C32Kyosuke Mashiko*
IF0Daisuke Nakai
IF2JOSE LOPEZ
IF5Toshihiko Kuramoto
IF9Yamato Maeda
IF23TYLER AUSTIN
IF31Tatsuhiro Shibata
IF44Keita Sano
IF51Toshiro Miyazaki
IF99NEFTALI SOTO
OF1Masayuki Kuwahara
OF3Takayuki Kajitani
OF33Tomo Otosaka
OF37Taishi Kusumoto
OF61Tatsuo Ebina*

Hanshin Tigers

PosNo.Name
P14Atsushi Nomi
P16Yuki Nishi
P17Yuta Iwasada
P22Kyuji Fujikawa
P34Masaki Tanigawa*
P42JON EDWARDS
P43Koki Moriya
P50Koyo Aoyagi
P66Ippei Ogawa*
P67Suguru Iwazaki
P75ROBERT SUAREZ
P77ONELKI GARCIA
C12Seishiro Sakamoto
C44Ryutaro Umeno
C94Fumihito Haraguchi
IF0Hiroki Uemoto
IF0Seiya Kinami
IF2Fumiya Hojo
IF3Yusuke Oyama
IF31JEFRY MARTE
IF33Kento Itohara
IF41JUSTIN BOUR
IF55Naomasa Yokawa
IF58Fumiya Araki
IF62Kai Ueda
OF5Koji Chikamoto
OF7Yoshio Itoi
OF8Kosuke Fukudome
OF9Shun Takayama
OF25Taiga Egoshi

Hiroshima Carp

No.Name 
P14Daichi Osera
P16Takeru Imamura
P18Masato Morishita*
P21Shota Nakazaki
P23Kazuki Yabuta
P28Hiroki Tokoda
P36Atsuya Horie
P39Yasunori Kikuchi
P46Mikiya Takahashi
P70TAYLER SCOTT
P97GERONIMO FRANZUA
C27Tsubasa Aizawa
C31Yoshiyuki Ishihara
C61Shogo Sakakura
IF0Takashi Uemoto
IF2Kosuke Tanaka
IF4Tetsuya Kokubo
IF6Tomohiro Abe
IF7Shota Dobayashi
IF33Ryosuke Kikuchi
IF35Takumi Miyoshi
IF63Ryoma Nishikawa
IF96ALEJANDRO MEJIA
OF1Seiya Suzuki
OF5Hisayoshi Chono
OF10JOSE PIRELA
OF37Takayoshi Noma
OF50Hiroki Takahashi

Chunichi Dragons

PosNo.Name
P13Yuki Hashimoto*
P16Katsuki Matayoshi
P17Yuya Yanagi
P19Kazuki Yoshimi
P21Toshiya Okada
P22Yudai Ono
P28Kodai Umetsu
P33Daisuke Sobue
P34Hiroto Fuku
P46Hiroshi Suzuki
P53LUIS GONZALEZ
P97RAIDEL MARTINEZ
C35Takuya Kinoshita
C44Yuya Gunji*
C52Takuma Kato
IF1Yota Kyoda
IF3Shuhei Takahashi
IF5Toshiki Abe
IF9Shun Ishikawa
IF55Nobumasa Fukuda
IF63Naomichi Donoue
IF66DAYAN VICIEDO
OF6Ryosuke Hirata
OF8Yohei Oshima
OF23Issei Endo
OF26Masataka Iryo
OF31Masaru Watanabe*
OF42ZOILO ALMONTE
OF56Kengo Takeda

Yakult Swallows

PosNo.Name
P12Taichi Ishiyama
P17Noboru Shimizu*
P18Naruki Terashima*
P19Masanori Ishikawa
P20Kazuki Kondo
P37SCOTT MCGOUGH
P38Yugo Umeno
P44Hiroki Onishi*
P69Ryuta Konno
P90Hiroki Hasegawa*
C45Motohiro Shima
C52Yuhei Nakamura
C57Yudai Koga*
IF1Tetsuto Yamada
IF2ALCIDES ESCOBAR
IF10Takahiro Araki
IF36Taishi Hirooka
IF39Takeshi Miyamoto
IF55Munetaka Murakami
IF66Taisei Yoshida*
OF9Yasutaka Shiomi
OF23Norichika Aoki
OF31Kotaro Yamasaki
OF41Yuhei Takai
OF42Tomotaka Sakaguchi
OF49Daiki Watanabe*
OF50Tsuyoshi Ueda

Ramping up: 10 days to go

On Monday, NPB spilled some more news about changes to its 2020 season made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

Draft moved to November

The Nikkan Sports reported this year’s amateur draft will be moved back from Oct. 26 to early November and that with no tournaments to attend, scouts have been able to observe high school practices since June 1 with the permission of schools’ director of baseball–yes, some Japanese high schools have directors of baseball.

Planning for cast of thousands

The Nikkan also reported on Monday’s liason meeting between NPB and pro soccer’s J-League. With the government having said that up to 5,000 fans could be allowed into ballparks from July 10, Dr. Mitsuo Kaku, an epidemiologist who has been advising the bodies, recommended teams consider the impact on public transportation and neighboring eating establishments in their planning.

“It’s extremely difficult to execute social distancing when we’re talking about thousands of people,” he said.

Saito: Uniform policy needed

After the conference, NPB commissioner Saito explained that NPB has finally begun to establish some testing policy. Until now, teams have created their own response to potential infections on the fly. According to the Nikkan, NPB will perform roughly 2,000 tests on players, staff and umpires prior to the June 19 season openers at a cost of about 20,000 yen ($180) per test.

There are roughly 1,000 players under contract with NPB clubs at any given time. The plan will be to have everyone undergo testing once a month.

“There are going to be so many different situations, that we absolutely have to lay out our plans in advance,” Saito said.

Last Wednesday, Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive for COVID-19. The Giants consulted with specialists before settling on a policy that would allow the two to return to practice after producing negative test results on consecutive days.

The guidelines NPB had leaked a week earlier would have required the pair to self-quarantine for two weeks after testing negative, virtually ruling them out of any games until July.

Ramping up: 23 days to go

On Thursday, the Nikkan Sports reported in Japanese on a few plans discussed on May 27 to reduce the burden on players who will be entering a season without the typical seven-week buildup while facing the added burden placed by possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Increase the imported player limit to 5

Since 2002, Rule 82.2 of NPB’s Baseball Charter has allowed up to four imported players on the 29-man active roster, with no more than three position players or pitchers.

On Wednesday, a special rule was discussed for this season that would allow five imports on the active roster, while retaining the four-man limit for the 25-man game roster. The additional active spots are typically used for starting pitchers between starts, and are one reason, along with a current 12-inning limit, that Japan virtually never sees a position player used as an emergency pitcher.

A primer on NPB’s import player rules and roster limits.

Increase the active roster beyond 29

On Monday, when NPB executives and their pro soccer counterparts from the J-League met with infectious disease experts, one recommendation was an expansion of the active rosters beyond 29. The rationale for this is that players may be exposed to the coronavirus and giving players more frequent rest could make them less vulnerable to infection in a season that is slated to run from June 19 to the end of November.

Curfews and time limits

Other items discussed were a possible 3-1/2 hour time limit on games and no extra innings. All official games that are declared ties when called either early because of playing conditions or at the end of 12 innings.

Last season, 247 of NPB’s 858 regular season games lasted longer than 3:30, with 150 of those exceeding 3:45 and 78 going past four hours.

It’s not all about money

After meeting with health experts and his counterpart from pro soccer’s J-League, NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito then met baseball team executives. And though Saito did not announce a date for Opening Day — in keeping with Japan’s current pandemic view of “It will be over when it’s over” — he did say that could come as early as next Monday.

For the last 30 years or so, I’ve studied the differences between MLB and NPB and spent an inordinate amount of that time researching the cost and benefits of sacrifice bunts. But at no time has the difference between the two institutions been more clear than in the way they’ve handled the COVID-19 crisis. It makes me proud to know that my favorite team for all its flaws and all of NPB’s, plays here and is not associated with MLB.

Although NPB greeted the news of a pandemic with one new official Opening Day after another and MLB owners sounded like the adults in the room, saying “Let’s see how this plays out.” The roles quickly reversed. Since the end of March, when Japan’s Prime Minister realized that ignoring the virus while praying at the Olympic alter would not keep the games in Tokyo this summer, Japan has dealt with the issue in a fairly straight-forward manner.

In my homeland, it’s been different.

MLB owners: “By staying safe at home, you people are costing me money. Let’s talk about furloughs and pay cuts because I have a right to protect the return on MY investment.”

NPB owners: “We’ll beat this thing together. Stay safe. Stay ready.”

Frankly, I consider the words of NPB commissioners to be next to useless, but that was because of Saito’s predecessor, Katsuhiko Kumazaki. A former prosecutor, Kumazaki seemed to understand little about the game and really couldn’t give a straight answer to any question. But I’m becoming a fan of Saito, who seems to understand when to be precise and when to show his humanity.

I’ve written before about how Japanese businesses are constrained to some extent by the social demand that they show some concern for their employees. And though Japanese companies will happily tread over talented individualists while promoting incompetent flatterers, they still spend on “company vacations” for the entire staff. It’s more about appearance than real caring but that’s what is expected of them.

In baseball, teams run brutal practices and used to tolerate physical abuse by coaches, but pennant winners always get vacations in December — these days a paid trip to Hawaii for virtually everyone in the organization and their families. It’s expected. It’s part of the cost of doing business.

And while MLB owners are clearly using the pandemic to tighten the screws on labor and on the bargaining rights of amateurs, NPB owners have been behaving as expected, calmly, as if the players and their families actually mattered.

In the final question of Monday’s press conference, a reporter asked Saito if the owners had considered pay cuts to the players.

“At this time, that is something that we are not thinking about,” he said with a slight chuckle that certainly sounded like he was envisioning an MLB owner being grilled for the answer to that question.