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Clearing up any confusion about the Pa League playoffs

by Wayne Graczyk

According to phone calls and e-mails I have been receiving, there seems to be a bit of confusion about exactly how the 2006 Pacific League playoffs will be scheduled, with respect to some new rules this year that change the number Stage 2 of games and home team designations, so let’s try to clear up any misunderstanding.

Stage 1 of the playoffs, a best-of-three series, will be played at Invoice Seibu Dome.

The Seibu Lions, who finished second in the regular-season standings, will host the third-place Fukuoka Softbank Hawks beginning with Game 1 on Saturday, Oct. 7. Game 2 is set for Sunday, Oct. 8.

If the teams split the first two games, a deciding Game 3 would be played on Monday, Oct. 9, a Japanese national holiday (Sports Day).

All are day games with starting time listed at 1 p.m. each afternoon.

The winner of Stage 1 — Seibu or Softbank — would then go to Sapporo to play the first-place finisher in the regular season, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, in Stage 2, a “best-of-five” series. A new regulation this year rewards the Fighters with a one-game advantage before play begins.

There will be a maximum of four games played, so Nippon Ham only needs to win two games in Stage 2; Seibu or Softbank would have to win three.

Game 1 of Stage 2 will be at Sapporo Dome on Wednesday, Oct. 11, and Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12. Both are night games to begin at 6 p.m.

If the Fighters win those two games, the series is over because of the one-game advantage, and Nippon Ham would go to the Japan Series for the first time since 1981.

But if the visiting team in Stage 2 wins one or both games at Sapporo, the action would then move to the home stadium of the Fighters’ opponent.

This is also a rule change from a year ago, when the first-place team had the home field advantage throughout Stage 2.

If the Lions or Hawks win in Hokkaido, a Game 3 of Stage 2 would then be played on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Invoice Seibu Dome or Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome.

If necessary, a deciding Game 4 would also be played in Tokorozawa or Fukuoka on Sunday, Oct. 15.

Those contests, should they take place, are “nighters,” scheduled for “Play Ball!” at 6 p.m.

Got all that?

There will be no rainouts because all three clubs play in dome stadiums and, hopefully, no typhoons will come through to cause a postponement. As for what would happen if there are any tie games, well, I don’t even want to think about it.

The 2006 best-of-seven Japan Series will begin on Saturday, Oct. 21, in the home stadium of the Central League champion; Nagoya Dome if it’s the Chunichi Dragons or Koshien Stadium if it’s the Hanshin Tigers.

While no Pa League playoff game will be played in Fukuoka until at least Oct. 14, Softbank fans can go to Yahoo Dome for a ‘public viewing’ of all playoff games involving the Hawks at Seibu and Sapporo.

All the action will be shown on the stadium’s giant scoreboard video screen.

Gates will open at noon for admittance on Oct. 7, 8 and (if necessary) 9 for the Stage 1 games at Seibu.

If the Hawks get to Stage 2, the time for admittance for the games at Sapporo will be announced.

Tickets are 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for kids 4 years old through middle school age.

All seats are unreserved, so you can sit anywhere you like in any open seat, and there will be a celebration with a fireworks display and (weather permitting) opening of the dome roof following games won by the Hawks.

Live in Fukuoka or going to be there during the playoffs?

Be sure to join the crowd at the public viewing for a fun time — the next best thing to actually being at the game.

There might be four: Regarding the possibility of Terry Collins becoming the next manager of the Orix Buffaloes, a source close to Collins in the U.S. said, “Terry has tremendous energy and love for the game. He grew up managing in the Dodgers’ system.

“If he ends up in Japan, the players would love his honesty, energy and desire to win, but I don’t think the job has been offered to him yet.”

If the 57-year-old Collins gets the job, he would be the fourth American manager here, joining Bobby Valentine of the Chiba Lotte Marines, Trey Hillman of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Marty Brown of the Hiroshima Carp.

Half the Pacific League clubs will have foreigners at the helm, and the trend continues for Japanese teams to look outside Japan for a manager.

Finally this week, the U.S. minor league club, the St. Paul Saints, will be coming to play a series of five exhibition games in Kyushu and Shikoku beginning Oct. 7.

The Associated Press story published here Sept. 27 said, “It is believed to be the first competition in Japan by an American minor league club,” but this was incorrect.

Lefty O’Doul brought the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals to Dai Nippon in 1949, winning all seven games they played, but I am not too sure how serious the St. Paul series will be.

The Saints, of the American Association, will open their tour against the Miyazaki Golden Golds, managed by comedian Kinichi “Kin-chan” Hagimoto.

They will then play the Saga Spirit and Fukuoka Blossom before concluding their trip with two games against the Shikoku Island League All-Stars.