Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Foto: NPB Draftees, Part 1 - Central League

I said I'd compile a post with photos of all the 2009 NPB draftees that I've taken, so here we go. These are from all sorts of amateur baseball games, from the Koshien HS tournament to college baseball league games and tournaments, to the industrial league tournament, even to some independent baseball like the Shikoku-Kyushu Island League.

Let's try this in team order by 2009 standings, especially since that puts my least favorite guy up first.


Hisayoshi Chono (OF, #1 pick, Chikuyo Gakuen HS -> Nihon University -> Honda)

If you don't already know, there isn't a single amateur player out there that I despised more than Hisayoshi Chono. And fortunately, there isn't a single team out there that I despise more than the Giants. So this is going to be a good combination.

Chono basically said straight out that he refused to play for any pro team besides the Giants. Sure, there are a LOT of kids who grow up as Giants fans thanks to either their parents, or their area of the country only getting Giants games on TV, or whatever, but most boys with aspirations of becoming a pro baseball player realize that it's more important to PLAY BASEBALL than it is to BE ON THE GIANTS.

Chono first pissed off most of the entire island of Hokkaido in 2006 when the Fighters drafted him out of Nihondai -- right after winning the Japan Series -- and he said "You guys suck, I'll only play for the Giants." Then in 2008 the Marines tried to draft him too, out of Honda. Bobby personally went to try to visit him and was repeatedly rebuffed -- "what part of 'only for the Giants' didn't you losers understand?"

I don't really know exactly why the Giants took him now, but good riddance. What I want to see is his first few ni-gun appearances at Kamagaya and Lotte Urawa, to see how the Fighters and Marines fans react to him :) For quite a while, if I typed 長野 (Chono) into my cellphone, it suggested I wanted to auto-complete it with 馬鹿 (idiot). This actually started because one of my other friends had dubbed him Chono-moron and sent it in enough emails my phone decided it must be his name.

Anyway, here he is in the 2008 Intercity Tournament, during a moment where I stopped booing him long enough to take a photo:

Genki Kawano (C, Ikusei #2, Kyushu Kokusai Univ HS)

Actually, I barely really saw Kawano play. The Kyushu Kokusai vs. Shonan game was the third game on August 16th, and I had been at Koshien since 7am to see Aomori Yamada, Nodai Niko, Teikyo, and Tsuruga Kehi. By the time the 3rd game started I was sunburnt and had a terrible headache, which I later figured out was the start of heatstroke. So rather than staying at Koshien all day and getting sick, I went home after the first inning of that 3rd game, and recovered from the heat.

(Which, in retrospect, though, SUCKS, because the fourth game of that day was Meiho vs. Saijo. So I missed seeing Meiho's Imamiya-kun, who I'd fallen in love with on TV, and also this uppity Akiyama kid from Saijo, apparently. Alas.)

Anyway, Kawano was the catcher and #5-spot batter for their team. So I essentially saw him play as a catcher for one inning, and then I left before his first at-bat. But I DID see him play! Really!

(He was ready to bat in the 1st inning but then didn't have to, so here he is hastily doing a Use Armor proficiency check, with a +2 on the roll for help from a party member.)


Ryoji Nakata (OF, #1 pick, Meitoku Gijuku HS -> Asia University)

I saw Nakata for the first time in a Toyodai-Asiadai game last fall. I was there and sitting on the Toyodai 1st-base side taking photos of Hiroki Ueno.

So it was VERY hard to NOT notice that there was this GIGANTIC dude playing first base for Asia. I mean, seriously, he is HUGE. Easily twice as wide as almost any other player out there, though not actually any taller. Rumor says he was scouted as a sumo player at one point but loves baseball too much to do anything else.

Nakata scared the crap out of Tohto league pitchers when he batted .314/.405/.713 as a freshman in the fall of 2006 with 4 home runs, although that ended up being pretty much his best semester. (Funny part is, he wasn't even in the top 10 batters in the league that semester, and both Hisayoshi Chono and Kei Nomoto beat his HR total.) He had a great college career in general though, going .278/.355/.438 overall and getting 103 hits over 8 semesters, no small feat. He also walked 44 times.

Mr. Big!

He's a big bunter, but not a big bunter.

Chasing down a foul ball -- the boy CAN run, actually.

I am mostly looking forward to him getting to ichi-gun because I am sure there will be a REALLY good Ryoji bento someday. :)


Takahiro Araki (IF, #3 pick, Teikyo #3 HS -> Kinki University)

Okay, I don't actually have any good photos of him, though I've seen him plenty in the college ball magazines this year. At first I always got him confused with Fumiya Araki, the shortstop for Meiji, who is also a solid player and who also plays both shortstop and centerfield and is known for getting on base and stealing bases once he gets there, and Fumiya is from Nichidai Sanko and Takahiro is from Teikyo Sanko... yeah, you get the idea.

I saw this Araki play once, in the Japan-US All-Collegiate tournament. In that game, he struck out three times and was hit by a pitch once, so nothing impressive, though he played shortstop and did a decent job of it.

Maike Magario (OF, Ikusei #1, Aomori Yamada HS)

I had a LOT of time to read magazines on my 12 hours of local train riding to get to Koshien a la Seishun 18, and so I was reading info for all of the teams that I was likely to see there, when I came across an intriguing name on the Aomori roster: 曲尾マイケ. At first I thought it was actually a typo and it was supposed to be マイケル, or Michael, and they just ran out of space due to most Japanese names not taking more than 5 characters. Except that's kind of silly since names CAN take 6 characters sometimes.

Anyway, as it turns out, he was born in Brazil, but moved to Japan when he was 5 years old, and started playing baseball in elementary school. Most articles refer to him and his family as being "Nikkei", or being of Japanese descent, but it's unclear what percentage Japanese exactly -- perhaps entirely Japanese-descended Brazilians, something like that. I'm sure there will be more about it surfacing in the next few weeks, especially with him joining the same team as Daniel Yuichi Matsumoto, and last year's Ikusei pick Rafael Fernandez...

The game I saw Maike in was the morning of August 16th. He was playing right field and batting sixth, and didn't really do anything extraordinary until the 9th inning of a game that had been tied 1-1 since the 3rd. With two outs in the bottom of said 9th, Maike hit a grounder deep into the hole at short for an infield single, stole second during the next batter's at-bat, and then unfortunately had to hold up on third during the next batter's single to left, so he was still on third when the next guy lined out. Nodai Niko scored a run in the 10th inning and won the game 2-1, sending Aomori Yamada home in their first match.

Dugout conference.

Will be interesting to see how he develops with the Swallows, who already have some Brazilian connections.


Kazuhito Futagami (P, #1 pick, Kochi HS -> Hosei University)

Futagami is one of two guys in this draft who I actually have MET, even if it was essentially just to say "Dude, you rock, I've been watching you for years, can I get a photo with you?"

Seriously, if you haven't heard me talk about Futagami enough already, go back and read all of my Hosei posts. I would make a Futagami tag, except that I'm unlikely to ever see him again now that he's with the Tigers. But essentially, almost every single time I've ever seen Hosei play, Futagami was pitching. It was a bizarre coincidence, really, that I inadvertantly watched him grow from being some nobody kid from Kochi into a first-round draft pick. He's been there for all of my Tokyo Big 6 time, and next year he won't be, which is kind of weird. So even though I *still* like the oft-injured Kisho Kagami better, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Futagami.

(A few weeks ago, outside Jingu. He had just thrown a complete-game 1-0 shutout win against Waseda. I'm the dorky white girl, if you couldn't guess.)

And this is still my favorite photo I've ever taken of him -- from the fall 2008 semester.

Fumihito Haraguchi (C, #6 pick, Teikyo HS)

Much as I'm not usually the type to root for powerhouses, I'm somewhat of a Teikyo fan. The school is less than 10 minutes from my house by bike, thus making it my "local" team, but in addition, several of my absolute favorite players come from there. Hichori Morimoto, Hiroki Ueno, Atori Ohta, just to name a few. So I came back from Koshien with a Teikyo keychain and cell charm, and when quizzed at a booth there which team I was supporting, I said, "Teikyo!", of course. I've taught English to a few Teikyo students in the past, and one of my current 8th-graders told me he's aiming to go there, too.

Anyway, the overall gist is, I'd been watching Teikyo all along anyway, so of course I saw Haraguchi -- he seemed like an all-around good player, lots of poise, great catching arm and instincts, etc. In the game I attended he went 2-for-4, hit an RBI double and scored a run himself, and also totally nailed a runner at 2nd base for a strikeout double play. He caught Hirahara and then also caught Itoh, the freshman flamethrower.

Haraguchi waiting to bat.

Haraguchi with the Teikyo ace pitcher Hirahara.

Be forewarned, though, that last time Hanshin drafted a catcher that I adored watching at the Koshien tournament, he basically disappeared into a yellow-and-black hole and was never seen or heard from again (Ryohei Hashimoto, Chiben Wakayama HS, 2006). Especially now with them signing Johjima, and Kanoh coming into his own, I'm filled with a vague sense of dread for the future of poor Haraguchi-kun.

Kenichi Tagami (OF, Ikusei #2 pick, Soka HS -> Soka University)

I saw Tagami play at the semi-finals of the All-Japan college tournament this summer, where Soka faced off against Fuji. However, Tagami was completely uninteresting to me and I didn't get a single photo of him. In the game, he played right field and led off, and only got on base by way of an error and a fielder's choice.

It doesn't surprise me too much that the comment about him on one of the draft sites is, "Will make a good bench player."


Shota Dobayashi (IF, #2 pick, Chukyodai Chukyo HS)

Ah, Chukyodai Chukyo. This year's Koshien champ. The school that has won Koshien more times than any other school, and is the only team in history to win 3 consecutive summer tournaments, and I believe has produced more pro players than any other Aichi prefecture high school, although recently they haven't had many, except for one EXTREMELY important one named Atsunori Inaba.

Anyway, I was high on Dobayashi before I even arrived at Koshien, having read about him and seen him on TV and all. He seemed like one of those guys with raw talent who was just Good At Baseball, at least on the high-school level: he could pitch, he could run, he could hit, he could field, he could do it all. As everyone knows, he almost Didn't Do It All, and I remember following the Koshien final game on my cellphone while trapped on a train making its way across Shikoku, and almost seeing him give up a 6-run lead in the 9th inning. But it did all work out okay in the end for him and for the team, and he seemed destined for the pros.

In the game I saw him at, he started in right field and batted cleanup, hit a double in the first inning that drove in the first two runs of the game for Chukyo, then immediately got himself picked off second base. But he also pitched the final 4 innings of the game and limited the Kwansei team to one more run. He did walk a lot of guys (4) and didn't seem to be at his best, but still pretty decent.

Of course, I found myself somewhat enraptured with the Kwansei Gakuin pitcher-catcher-pitcher-catcher Hiroki Yamasaki at the same time. However, Dobayashi is a much bigger kid, and if he can fill out his frame and do some training to avoid injury in the future, I think he could definitely become an impact player in whatever position he eventually decides on.

Dobayashi at bat.

And here he is pitching.

Hisashi Takeuchi (P, #3 pick, Tokushima Joto HS -> Hosei University)

Takeuchi is the other of the two guys in this draft who I have met. Unlike Futagami, who was surrounded by fans, talking to Takeuchi was as simple as going up and saying hello to him (I asked him to take off his face mask so we could get a photo together, though).

It's a little weird -- two years ago, Takeuchi was being hyped as the future ace of the Hosei staff, and he played in some international tournaments, and supposedly was hitting 154 on the radar gun at Jingu when pitching in relief. Scouts probably saw his huge frame (he's actually built more like a US pitcher than a Japanese pitcher at 6' and 200ish pounds) and thought "Awesome!" but then he got injured and had some shoulder pain over the winter of 2008-2009 that kept him from pitching at all in the Spring 2009 semester, and the team won the championship without him. It was unclear if he would make it back for the fall, but he did, and he pitched well, though nothing about him screamed "DRAFT ME NOW" like it did with Futagami :)

Then again, this is why I'm not a scout. I'm sure there is a lot more to evaluating these college players than what goes on in the actual league matches.

Takeuchi warming up on the sidelines, Sept 26th. His glove says 真っ向勝負 which basically I think means something to the effect of "Bring it on". Literally, it's "challenge things head-on", I think.

Takeuchi pitching at Hosei's final game this semester.


Takehiro Fukuda (P, #5 pick, Ohtani HS -> Kochi University -> Kyoto University -> Ritz Baseball Club -> Kagawa Olive Guyners)

Now this was probably the biggest WTF moment of the draft for me, seeing Fukuda get drafted by the Baystars.

Back in August, while on my Seishun 18 trip barnstorming across the entirety of the western half of Japan, I took in two Shikoku-Kyushu Island League games. The first one was a Kagawa-Nagasaki game in Sasebo which randomly happened to be one of the total high points of my entire trip, as I went completely out to the middle of nowhere, saw some great scenery, met some awesome people, and watched some surprisingly interesting baseball.

And well, the starter for Kagawa just happened to be this guy Takehiro Fukuda. I had never heard of him before that day, but he seemed decent enough. He gave up 2 runs in the first inning, both unearned (the leadoff batter reached base on an error) and then didn't give up anything for the rest of the 8 innings he pitched in the game, which eventually resulted in a 2-2 tie.

Unfortunately, since the Saints were the home team and I was sitting on their side and stalking their players after the game, I didn't really learn much about the Kagawa players, relatively, so I can't really tell you THAT much about this guy.

I can, however, show you photos:

Also, he has a blog, but it seems to mostly be about food he likes to eat :)

Alright, next up will be the Pacific League draftees...

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