Yesterday they had a press conference to introduce the Fighters' newest ni-gun batting coach -- except he's not new to the Fighters at all, it's our very own Yukio Tanaka!
(image from Sankei Sports)
This is so cool. I hope that having the REAL Mr. Fighters, the true owner of uniform number 6, hanging around Kamagaya as a batting coach next year will drive some sense into Sho Nakata's brain about how to actually be a professional baseball player.
Also, it'll be awesome to maybe finally get to meet Yukio in person, as he was a big part of why I became a Fighters fan in the first place. I talked to the Kamagaya coaches a bit this year, so it seems likely that there'd be a chance next year too!
In other Fighters news...
Jason Botts and Ryan Wing are officially off the team. Wing is no surprise given that he got injured before the season and didn't actually DO anything for us. Botts, well, he spent most of the year at ni-gun, and I had a feeling he wasn't likely to come back next year, but you never know. I tried to chat with him a few times at Kamagaya but he generally wasn't that talkative, so I don't really know how he felt about the entire experience here.
Terrmel Sledge and Brian Sweeney are still good to go for the postseason, though what'll happen with them next year is still unknown.
(Sweeney, infact, got the win in the Fighters' game against the Carp yesterday in the Phoenix League.)
Rather than last year where the Fighters had an intrasquad game in Kamagaya to practice for the postseason, this time they're using time in the Phoenix League to keep their players in practice for postseason games. I got the following schedule of who is appearing from Ojisan:
10/12 - 18: Sakamoto
10/12 - 21: Tadano, Sweeney
10/14 - 16: Hichori, Iiyama, Naoto, Tsuboi, Nioka
10/14 - 18: Darvish, Fujii, Hayashi, Itokazu, Miyanishi, Ejiri, Yagi, Masaru, Kikuchi, Kanamori, Ohno, Tsuruoka, Murata, Konta
10/16 - 18: Kensuke, Kaneko, Sledge, Itoi, Koyano, Inaba
10/17 - 18: Hisashi, Tateyama
Dang, now I wish I could go to Miyazaki :)
The games schedule is on the Fighters site in Japanese here. It goes until the 22nd, so it seems likely that the normal ni-gun players will stil get in a decent amount of playing time after the Fighters' training camp there ends. (I am, however, a bit concerned that Ryota Imanari still hasn't made an appearance in a game -- wondering if he's still injured or what. I know he went there with the team, though.)
And in other fall camp news, Toshiyuki Yanuki is going to the Arizona Fall League along with 3 Giants players and with Hiroshi Katayama from the Eagles. Yanuki is blogging his experiences in the Arizona Fall League, although so far it appears the blog will only be viewable on the Fighters' mobile site. It seems that from looking at the Arizona Fall League official mlb.com site, he already made an appearance in a game yesterday, pitching two innings and letting both of his inherited runners score but not giving up any runs credited to him. In further amusement, the starting and losing pitcher of the game was Ryohei Tanaka, who I last saw at Lotte Urawa with the Marines farm team in 2008, but who spent 2009 in the minors with the Baltimore Orioles.
(Shameless self-plug: one of my Hiroshi Katayama photos is being used in an mlb.com article about the Japanese guys in the Arizona League - check it out! I also have a photo credit in the Onion A.V. Club last week as well, for the Mike Blowers call.)
Maybe Yanuki will pick up some English while he's hanging out in the US for two months and I can chat with him next year in Kamagaya! That would be fun.
I forget, did I ever actually mention here that Tomoyuki Oda and Takeshi Itoh retired? I saw both of them at Kamagaya a lot, at ichi-gun once or twice. Oda had a really fun ouenka, one of the last remaining ones with hand motions ("Right, left, center e"), but it was looking less and less likely that he was ever going to make any impact with the team again.
I'm going to be trying to keep tabs on what Yohei Kaneko (who won't have his contract with the Fighters renewed next year) does -- for now he's said he'll go to the fall tryouts for other teams, so we'll see what happens. I'm still pretty bummed about it. Would be nice if someone with an Eastern League ni-gun team picks him up, anyway, so we can see him again in Kamagaya.