Sunday, January 14, 2007

NPB Roundup: Papa Yagi

I was originally going to write something about the whole latest "Ichiro is unhappy and everyone's making a big to-do about it" escapade, but my only role in it was to point out that there actually was a Sankei Sports article behind the whole rumor, and I'll be honest: Ichiro wanting to win more games is just not all that interesting.

ESPECIALLY when I went to Nikkan Sports to start collating the "New Face" articles on the Fighters rookies -- now that the last three, Youhei Kaneko, Takahiro Imanami, and Yuusuke Uchiyama are done -- but instead, the top headline was Tomoya Yagi announces that he's both a husband and a father-to-be! Eek! That explains the bad haircut!

No, just kidding. So, apparently Yagi got married back in November officially, to a girl whose name is 徳留知佳 -- Tokudome Chika, I'm guessing, though I know there's several other ways to read that first name. It sounds like they were introduced by the manager of a jewelry store during their senior year at Soka University, and immediately fell in love, and are infact, pretty much leading the life of happy newlyweds -- except for, yes, that one small detail -- Yagi's wife is due to give birth in June, so that wedding in November was indeed a bit of a "dekichatta kekkon" -- a shotgun wedding. (I wanted to make a Ryoko Hirosue joke here, but it wasn't really worth the effort.)

Yagi says that his biggest goal for next year is to avoid the second-year jinx, while also trying to assume the responsibilities of being a father and husband. I wish the best for both goals there. He had a lot to celebrate this past year, obviously, but maintained poise and maturity through everything he faced -- even the time halfway through the year where Yu Darvish forgot his jersey and borrowed one of Yagi's to win the 11th game in a winning streak, only for Yagi to lose the 12th game the next day wearing his own jersey and facing that Matsuzaka guy.

Speaking of amusing Darvishisms, the headline right after the "Papa Yagi" headline is one of Darvish doesn't want to get married yet. I love the Japanese press. In the juicy details of the article, Darvish, "most popular guy in the Fighters bachelor club", mentions that he doesn't even currently have a girlfriend. "Yagi's what, 23 years old? I'm just going to take things at my pace, maybe get married 4 or 5 years from now?" he says. For the Mariners fans, a perspective: Darvish is 4 months younger than our Felix Hernandez, who already has a year-and-a-half-old daughter. But never fear, Darvish keeps himself plenty busy, what with various ad campaigns or speaking to youth baseball clubs or training. And whoa, I just found his official site, which is even more Darvish than I can handle right now. Though, he has a link to an Iranian Baseball site -- I had no idea such a thing existed.

Romash Tasuku Dass, the tall half-Indian half Japanese guy the Fighters drafted this year, apparently has a plan to outdo the Handkerchief Prince, Saito Yuki by becoming the "Turban Prince" and starting a fashion craze for turbans. How exactly he plans to do this -- especially since I'm pretty sure you can't wear a baseball cap over a turban -- is beyond me, but it should be pretty funny to see what comes out of it. Dass also wants to run a 100k marathon or something. I dunno.

By the way, at the end of the Papa Yagi article, they also mentioned the last few months' worth of Fighters family announcements. I've probably got some of the wife names wrong, but took my best guess at the kanji:

11/22/06: 24-year-old Teppei Komai (farm team catcher) married 24-year-old Marimo Abe (安倍まりも) from Tokyo (Hachioji).
12/11/06: 23-year-old Keizo Kawashima (utility) married 21-year-old Saya Nozawa (野沢沙耶) from Tokyo (Kunitachi).
12/24/06: 22-year-old Masaya Ozaki (farm team IF) married 22-year-old Miho Hayashi (林美歩) from Hyogo (Amagasaki).

If I understand correctly, Masaru Takeda registered his marriage (to 28-year-old Yoko (陽子)) in 2005 but actually had the wedding reception on 12/16/2006.

1/18/06: to Takeshi Itoh, a boy, the second child but first son
7/21/06: to Yuuji Iiyama, twins -- boys -- now he has three sons
9/20/06: to Naoto Inada, his first child, a daughter
10/14/06: to Fernando Seguignol, his second son
12/22/06: to Hisashi Takeda, his first child, a son

Speaking of Seguignol, I really wish I knew what his contract status is! The Fighters certainly have the money to sign him, since they ended up taking the 456 million yen from the Giants as compensation for signing Ogasawara, rather than a player, since the Bay Stars took Kimiyasu Kudoh, who the Fighters also supposedly wanted (though I can't for the life of me figure out why).

I was reading through a bunch of Fighters blogs a few days ago and came across a photo blog, which I thought had a rather nice Ogasawara post. Mostly, I just liked the picture of the jersey in the drawer, being retired. I know I certainly felt that way at the time. The bobbleheads of Ogasawara, Takahashi, and Tani are pretty funny too.

I suppose that unless I actually mention things about some teams that aren't the Fighters, this isn't really an NPB roundup per se...

Tomoya Satozaki gave the Lotte administration a bit of Hanshin treatment, if I understand this article properly -- he went in for his contract renewal and basically sat around yawning and playing with his cellphone and such, accusing the team of leaking (contract assessment?) information about him. My guess is that there will be furious apologies all around and he'll sign before the team goes off to Geelong for spring training in Australia -- but still, that's pretty funny. I can just imagine him leaving the contract talks like "'kay guys, I gotta go. Gimme a call when you're either willing to not screw things up or when you find another catcher in the Pacific League who can bat cleanup or DH every game as well and do all of the stupid extra exhibition events and... oh wait! I think Kenji Johjima's in America now! Ha!"

Takao Kajimoto and Reiichi Matsunaga were elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame last week. It's sad that it happened this year instead of earlier -- Kajimoto, who was with Tetsuya Yoneda the Hankyu Braves's version of Spahn and Sain, died in September. His widow, Kyoko, spoke on his behalf at the press conference.

The Seibu Lions signed Jason Johnson to a 350 million yen contract for the 2007 season. That's pretty insane -- more than Matsuzaka was making in his last year -- but, I guess they needed someone to eat up all those innings. Johnson's minor league numbers actually look to me like they'll transfer to Japan okay though, so we'll see. What I'm most curious about is how they'll handle his health issues -- Johnson is diabetic and was the first person to wear an insulin pump while pitching in the MLB, and will undoubtedly be the first in Japan as well. I have to wonder whether the Seibu press will play that up or down. It might depend on how Johnson pitches, really.

Nori Nakamura really just doesn't want to play baseball in Osaka, apparently. Last time he pulled his "I hate you guys, I'm leaving" he ended up playing in Las Vegas for a year, though this time it seems more likely that he'll end up with some other NPB team willing to overpay for a declining third baseman. We'll see.

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