Sportswriter David Dorsey of the Ft. Myers News-Press in Florida is getting ready to work the Boston Red Sox spring training camp in that town. He will be joined by a bevy of reporters and photographers from the various Japanese media there to cover the Daisuke Matsuzaka circus and lefty reliever Hideki Okajima.
David says the lady who runs the gift shop at the camp site already ordered 900 “Dice-K” T-shirts, 300 each of three designs.
My guess is she will sell out very quickly after the pitchers and catchers report to the camp on Feb. 16. The first workout is scheduled for the following day.
Also, David says, there is a Japanese restaurant in Ft. Myers. It is called “Yokohama” and run by a woman from Okinawa who married an American.
The Japanese media has already contacted her for an interview as a sidebar to their reports on what’s happening in the camp.
Matsuzaka and Okajima should be happy to get an order of yakisoba, yakitori, sushi and whatever else is on the menu at Yokohama, and the place will no doubt do a flood of business until the Red Sox clear out in late March.
The Japanese media contingent will be hungry for some familiar food during their stay in the Florida city on the state’s southwest coast, down the road from Tampa-St. Petersburg and across the Everglades from Miami.
From the E-Mailbag: Former Hiroshima Carp (1998-2000) and Chiba Lotte Marines (2001-2004) pitcher Nate Minchey is now a scout with the Cleveland Indians.
The Tribe is counting on him and his seven years of experience in Japan for some excellent reports on what’s happening in Dai Nippon in 2007.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my playing days (in Japan),” Minchey wrote. “Since I was hired by the Indians to scout Japan, I’ll be over there three or four times this year.”
Big Nate won 15 games each for the Carp in 1998 and the Marines in 2002, and he led the Pacific League with a 3.26 ERA in 2001.
Super fan Brian Moore of San Diego, the guy who saw 18 baseball games in 13 days in Japan last fall, checked in from the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico (that guy gets around) where he wore his Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles jersey, met Eagles third baseman Jose Fernandez and watched other players with Japan experience.
“Tony Batista (who played with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2005) was named the Series MVP,” said Moore, who also said Fernandez is very optimistic about the situation in Sendai.
“Jose is very excited about the upcoming season, especially about Kevin Witt (the slugger signed by Rakuten during the offseason) and some of the pitching the Eagles drafted,” he added.
The highly touted Masahiro Tanaka must be at the top of the list.
Diamond Dust: It should be a great season for manager Sadaharu Oh and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
They will wear “Good Year” on their uniforms beginning Feb. 27 when they play an exhibition game against the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka Yahoo JAPAN Dome.
No, that is not the team’s 2007 “catch phrase.” Rather, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. has signed on as a sponsor, and the corporate logo will be displayed on the pants of the SoftBank players.
That annual special edition of Shukan (Weekly) Baseball magazine, featuring the profiles of all managers, coaches and players on the 12 Japan pro baseball teams, went on sale Feb. 8 and should still be on the newsstands.
It’s all in Japanese but features photos and bios of all the guys and tons of other information.
The issue date is Feb. 24, and the price is 450 yen. I cannot do without it.
Semi-finally this week, I would like to say “sayonara” to an enthusiastic sports fan. Bob Collins, former president of the Tokyo American Club and writer of the “Max Danger” series and other columns in the Tokyo Weekender newspaper from 1984 to 2004, died in Tokyo on Jan. 30. He was 67.
There were some happy times with Bob watching baseball in the old Korakuen Stadium or the Jingu ballpark and later Tokyo Dome. I think he still holds the record for the most hamburgers eaten during a nine-inning game.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Finally this week, I learned of a sports bar in Yokohama and decided to check it out. Benny’s Place it is, owned and operated by American Benny Eilers in Motomachi, a short walk from JR Ichikawacho Station and not far from Yokohama Stadium.
It serves a variety of beers, a great cheeseburger and, like most sports bars, there is baseball memorabilia all over the walls and ceiling.
Autographed boards and jerseys attest to the fact Benny’s Place is frequented by the foreign players on Central and Pacific League teams. For one, Nate Minchey’s signed Marines shirt is prominently displayed.
Japanese players go there, too.
Benny relays a story from former Yokohama BayStars second baseman Bobby Rose that occurred during a Yokohama Stadium game in the late 1990s.
Akira Eto, now with the Seibu Lions but then with the Hiroshima Carp, smacked a ball down the left-field line and went for a double.
He slid safely into second as Rose took the throw from the outfield and made a late tag. Eto got up, brushed the dust out of his pants and, in the heat of battle, turned to Rose and said, “Hey, you going to Benny’s tonight?”
I’ll be going there again for sure.
For a map, check the Web site at: www.bennysplace.net or call (045) 671-0818.
Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com