Yomiuri Giants owner Toshikazu Yamaguchi said the Central League club will not expand admissions limits in August beyond the current 5,000 the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday.
The government had given event promoters the OK to admit up to around half a venue’s capacity from Aug. 1, but on Saturday, the government’s Minister for Economic Revitalization, Yasutoshi Nishimura asked promoters to reconsider in light of recent increases in confirmed COVID-19 infections.
“At this time, infections are increasing and Tokyo is at the center of that,” Yamaguchi said. “In line with government guidance we had aimed to bring in 19,000 more or less, but I can’t imagine doing that soon.”
The same day, Yamaguchi announced a 10 billion yen ($9 million) investment to make Tokyo Dome safer in a world with coronavirus, with the first improvements, more washbasins and women’s toilets to be ready for the park to host fans for the first time this year on July 28.
The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks announced Monday that their two Cuban outfielders, Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, have arrived in Fukuoka and have tested negative for the coronavirus.
The pair had been in Cuba this spring to prepare for their nation’s World Baseball Classic qualifiers, and were stranded there after the qualifiers were canceled and exit and entry restrictions imposed.
Eagles’ drop Kishi, Dragons drop Hirata
Following his third poor start of the season, the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles deactivated veteran right-hander Takayuki Kishi on Monday, while the Central League’s Chunichi Dragons have also dropped one of their stars, outfielder Ryosuke Hirata, due to his poor performance.
The 35-year-old Kishi is 1-0 but has allowed 10 runs over 12-1/3 innings. Sports Bull quoted Eagles pitching coach Tomohito Ito as saying, “He really isn’t getting results, so one would think there is a physical issue. He’s a player we absolutely need. Having said that, we’ve only just started, so we want him to diligently get back to where he needs to be and rejoin the team.”
The 32-year-old Hirata, one of the Dragons’ most reliable hitters and consistently one of the CL’s best outfield defenders, was deactivated in the hope that he can regain his batting form with the farm team after starting the season with a .164 batting average in 73 plate appearances.
Rakuten vows to eject cheating fans
On Sunday, the Rakuten Eagles responded to complaints from Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji that a fan seated behind home plate was shouting where his catcher, Tomoya Mori, was setting up during the home team’s at-bats on Saturday.
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Lions at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, announcements were made and extra security was posted in the stands, Jiji Press reported.
Hiroshi Abei, the Eagles’ director of baseball operations, said, “In order to prevent similar acts from occurring…fans acting in that manner will be removed from the ballpark.”
A similar issue occurred just after Opening Day when games were being played behind closed doors, and players on the field at Jingu Stadium could hear broadcasters talking about where the catchers were setting up.
Even though up to 5,000 fans are being admitted to games, they have been prohibited from speaking loudly, chanting or cheering, so that individuals who do speak up can clearly be heard.
Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement at a press conference after midnight in Tokyo on Friday, March 22. I have translated the entire press conference from start to finish to give you a sense of how it went down. I hope you enjoy. I have included the original Japanese text. The questions have been mercilessly shortened, however.
He made two curtain calls, once after he left the game at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, and again after the Mariners’ extra-inning win over the Athletics. What follows is the Japanese and English text of his retirement press conference early on the morning of March 22 in Tokyo.
–You succeeded in realizing your dream of becoming a
pro baseball player. What have you gained?
“I don’t really know if I succeeded or not. Where
do you measure it from? Because if you can’t do that, then I’m unable to judge.
I dislike that word, “success.” Trying the major leagues, or any other world, I
think requires great courage because you are taking on the challenge of a world
that’s new for you. In that sense I would use the word “success,” but that’s
because you go because you think you’ll succeed. If you don’t go because you
think you can’t be successful, I think that will become a source of regret. Basically, I try things
because I want to do them. But what have I gained? I guess that’s how I feel
about it. I wanted to get about 200 hits, and I thought I could. My first year
our team won 116 games, 93 the next two. So in those three years I didn’t think
winning was such a difficult thing. It is in fact extremely hard. That
realization might be the big thing I took away.”
–You do your offseason training in Kobe. Now that
you’ve retired do you have some emotion to want to repay a debt of gratitude to
“Kobe’s streets are special to me. As for repaying,
I wonder what that might be. From my standpoint as a player, I thought of
nothing but continuing my career and playing as long as I could. Kobe? Repay a
debt of gratitude? I suppose I can do my best to pay them some taxes.”
–(Japanese) players who go to the majors now follow a
path from playing (in the high school
tournaments) at Koshien Stadium, and from there to Japanese pro ball and then
the majors. Based on your own experiences if there was a different a system, that
would make it easier for Japanese to go to the majors, what would that be? This
is hypothetical, but could there be some kind of developmental system or is
playing in Nippon Professional Baseball still the best way?
“I really don’t know in much detail about systems
as such. My baseball foundations were laid in Japan for my future of playing in
MLB. But in the case of building the necessary foundation in order to play in
MLB, I know that the sooner you go the better, but Japanese baseball still has
much to teach, so it’s really not fair to look just at the different systems.”
–What did you Japanese baseball teach you?
“One could argue that from the standpoint of
fundamentals, how to play the game, Japanese junior high school-level players
may be better than major leaguers because of the focus on teamwork through
things like relay plays. We (Japanese) can execute those things without being
told. That’s Japanese baseball, but over there, well… the players used to be
athletic and have high individual potential, and I think that is still the case,
but (my hope that teammates would become better fundamentally) it was so
frustrating. Eventually, it became so frustrating I just put it out of my mind.”
–We were looking forward to facing the Angels’ Shohei
Ohtani, but it didn’t come to pass. Did you want to face him?
“I think I answered that already, but my thinking
is he is a guy who has to be No. 1 in the world. It’s unfortunate about a
matchup against each other. I wanted to pitch against Shohei if that had been
possible. Please don’t misunderstand that. ”
–What kind of player do you think Shohei Ohtani will
“What will he be? I think that’s something only a
fortune teller can explain. If one was capable of pitching and hitting, what I
would like to do is pitch one season and bat the next. In that way one could
win the Cy Young Award one year and win the home run title the next. That’s
because it’s something I can’t even consider. After all, Shohei is the kind of
player who invites that kind of impression. He’s already proved he’s a player
who is different from others. I think that playing two ways is pretty cool. You
don’t look like that answer is going to satisfy you.”
“OK. Let’s say he wins 20 games in one year as a
pitcher, and hits 50 home runs the next and is MVP. That’s a monster, but it’s
not something you can exclude as a possibility. That’s kind of how I look at him.”
–It is said you agreed with the sentiment that you
would hate the idea of yourself as a retired player.
“I don’t think I would say, ‘I hate that.’ I don’t
believe I said I dislike the idea of myself as someone who isn’t a player.”
–So can you imagine yourself as something other than a
“Since you don’t like that (answer), do you mean seeing myself playing a different kind of baseball? I already talked about that. I’m kind of hungry and my concentration is fading. My recollection of what I said before is…Did I talk about “kusayakyu” (backlot baseball)? In any case, I think that would be fun. I would be the kind of player who masters kusayakyu. In that case, I’d be really serious at it. Are you listening?” “I am so hungry. Is this not enough? How long have we been going at this? An hour? 1 hour, 20 minutes? Oh my. I was kind of hoping to be out with people until late, and now I’m starving.”
–When you were in elementary school, you wrote in your
graduation essay ‘My dream is to be a top-level baseball player.’ What would
you like to say to that boy that was you?
“Listen kid. You’re not going to get a 100 million yen ($900,000) signing bonus. Yes, that’s right. No, we say to have big dreams, but they are also hard. I also wrote that I wanted to be a No. 1 draft pick with a bonus of 100 million, but that proved beyond my grasp. So in a sense, is that not frustration, too? Is that a good place to end this? I really want to polish this off properly, so OK one last question.”
–During your first time with the Mariners, you said a
number of times that ‘I feel lonely when I play.’ But with the Yankees and
Marlins, your role changed. Then you had that situation last year, and now
you’ve retired. Did you continue to play with that feeling of loneliness? Or
did the nature of the loneliness you felt change?
“I don’t feel that anymore. At this stage, not at
all. This might be a little different (from what you meant), but when I arrived
in America, when I came to the majors, I became a foreigner, because I was in
America and that made me a foreigner there. Through this thing of becoming a
foreigner I began to consider other people, began to imagine things like the
pain of others.”