Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Foto: Opening Day Countdown, Part N

Technically, there's two days left until Mariners Opening Day -- Saturday and Sunday, and then the game is on Monday afternoon -- but whatever, this is Friday Foto, so I'm cheating and just finishing the countdown now.

Did anyone actually enjoy this series? I thought it was an incredibly cool idea when I first started putting it together, and I think it's neat to look at the whole month's worth at once, but since I'm not psychic, I have no idea whether anybody else does. I really should figure out how to put up a poll one of these days to find out which stuff I should spend more or less effort producing here, especially going into the new season. (Marinerds, Season 3: 50 Ways To Ream Your Roster)

Wow. One more weekend, and then another six months of baseball! I'll be in section 143 at Safeco for Opening Day, or you can find me before the game with my huge camera stalking Brandon Buckley Rich Harden.

Tatsuhiko Kinjoh
I simply didn't have a good enough shot of Tsuyoshi Shinjo, so instead I went with switch-hitting Yokohama outfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjoh. It rhymes! Kinjoh was a batting champion as a rookie, and was once the future hope of Yokohama, but has gone through ups and downs since, most recently having an off year in 2006.

Kenji Johjima
Kenji Johjima is the catcher for the Seattle Mariners. I think he had a pretty solid first year in Seattle after his tenure as an all-star slugging catcher in Japan. It's just a shame I didn't stop hating the Hawks until after he left them. Alas.

Nobuhiko Matsunaka
Nobuhiko Matsunaka is the first baseman for the Softbank Hawks. He's simply an awesome baseball player. He was Japan's most recent Triple Crown winner in 2004, and even in his "down" seasons offensively he still wins batting titles.

Lou Gehrig
The greatest baseball player to ever wear #4. The Luckiest Man.

Michael Cuddyer
Michael Cuddyer is yet another one of those magical Twins players who suddenly came out of nowhere and took the AL by storm. He moved from being an iffy backup third baseman into being a simply smashing outfielder -- smashing every baseball that came his way.

Hirokazu Ibata
Hirokazu Ibata is the best shortstop in Japan and has been for several years, but people tend not to notice because he plays for Chunichi and because he doesn't pound home runs. He pretty much does everything else you could ever want a player to do, though -- get on base, score runs, turn bazillions of double plays, field everything that comes anywhere near him. His only real downside is that he uses DJ OZMA's "アゲ♂アゲ♂EVERY☆騎士" as his at-bat music.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Blessed with looks and charisma that rival those of several popular TV stars in Japan (see his recent Adidas commercials), Tsuyoshi Nishioka is also one of the most exciting young baseball players in the NPB, constantly dueling with the Hawks' Kawasaki for most stolen bases, best fielding, best smile, and most crazy screaming female fans.

Jeff Liefer
This is cheating, I'm sure, to sneak yet another NPB player in here under the guise of an MLB player. But, I happened to be sitting 9 rows back from the field during an Indians game in July 2005 where Jeff Liefer was the DH, and he had two hits and scored a run. He only got 6 more hits that year and I completely forgot about him until I was in Japan a year later and he was mashing baseballs all over the place.

(All of these were taken by me in 2005 and 2006. Years/Stadiums -- Kinjoh: 2006, Yokohama. Johjima: 2006, Safeco. Matsunaka: 2006, Miyagi Fullcast. Gehrig plaque: 2005, Yankee Stadium. Cuddyer: 2005, Metrodome. Ibata: 2006, Hiroshima. Nishioka: 2006, Chiba Marine. Liefer: 2005, Safeco.)

Padilla, Padilla, Padilla -- that's all folks! See you at Safeco!

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