Okay, technically in Japan his birthday was yesterday, not today, but... and by yesterday I mean January 31st, which is about to become yesterday over here as well, but anyway. Spring training has started in Japan, and Hichori Morimoto, the new clown prince centerfielder of the Nippon Ham Fighters, feels it is necessary to start his own legacy of goofballness.
After all, in the last three years when Shinjo was on the team, the Fighters had a large welcoming party to greet them at the airport when they came to spring training. In 2004, Shinjo's first year back in Japan, 500 fans greeted them. In 2005, 300 fans greeted them. Last year, 150 fans greeted them. This year, despite the team winning the Japan Series, only 50 fans and about 50 media folks showed up to meet the team when they came into the airport, which might indicate that Shinjo's fanbase pull was even more than we thought.
It's sort of sad, because Hichori definitely has the attitude, the talent, and the creativity to become the new team goofball. But what he doesn't have is the good looks and rock star charisma that Shinjo does.
Anyway, on Wednesday, Hichori announced that he was going to kick off his new "Gekidan Hichori" act with a big surprise on Thursday. This in itself is pretty funny -- if you don't know, there's a Japanese comedian whose stage name is Gekidan Hitori, a name which basically means "a one-man show". (I'm a pretty big fan of his, having seen him in several shows. Incidentally, his birthday is Feb 2, which starts in a few hours in Japan. But I digress.) So the new "Hichori Show" is, of course, to follow up the "Shinjo Theater" that preceded him.
So on Thursday, when Hichori showed up at camp, he was wearing his new uniform number #1, which he inherited from Shinjo. Only he wasn't wearing it on a uniform... he had pasted it directly on his back. So he paraded around camp for a while, shirtless, wearing his new uniform number on his actual back, as his teammates all cracked up.
Now I just have to hope Hichori performs as well at the plate as he does in his comedy acts.
(If you have forgotten who Hichori Morimoto is, most people on this side of the Pacific know him as the dude who dressed up as an alien at last year's NPB All-Star game. But to us Fighters fans, he was our speedy leadoff man who led the team in runs scored, both during the normal season and in the postseason. His smart baserunning won the PL playoffs for the Fighters and he scored 6 of the 20 runs the team scored during the Japan Series. He's also funny-looking and has a funny-spelled name and is a pretty funny guy in general. And yeah, Hichori is his first name, but his last name is so common and his first name so uncommon that it makes more sense to refer to him by it. Unlike certain middle infielders for Lotte I could name. But anyway. Happy birthday, Hichori!)
My brain is exploding from trying to read all of the Japanese spring training stuff. So, as usual... more later!