Rakuten applies to create new club

The Associated Press

Tokyo-based Internet services company Rakuten made a formal application Friday to Japan professional baseball to create a new team.

Rakuten president Hiroshi Mikitani submitted a formal application at the Japanese baseball commissioners’ office Friday afternoon, said Kunio Shimoda, director of public relations at Nippon Professional Baseball.

Since the merger of the Pacific League’s Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave was approved by representatives of Japan’s 12 professional teams, Rakuten became the second Internet services company that has applied to enter a new team in Japan’s pro leagues.

Earlier this month, Livedoor president Takafumi Horie applied to create a team that would play out of Miyagi Stadium in the northeastern Japanese city of Sendai.

On Wednesday, Mikitani said he also wanted to put a new team in Sendai.

Following the merger of the Buffaloes and BlueWave, Japan’s players insisted that a new team be allowed to form next season to create a balance of teams and avoid job losses. Management countered that the earliest a new team could enter Japan professional baseball would be after the 2005 season.

On Sept. 11-12, the players staged the first strike in the 70-history of Japanese professional baseball in opposition to the merger. A total of 12 games were wiped out that weekend.

Japan’s baseball players averted a second strike Thursday after agreeing with management that a new team be allowed to join baseball next season, opening the door for companies like Rakuten and Livedoor.

If an application by Livedoor or Rakuten was approved, it would restore the Pacific League to six teams for the 2005 season.