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Pacific League dominating Central in interleague play

by Wayne Graczyk

There was a rumor going around prior to the beginning of this season’s interleague schedule that Pacific League teams were thinking about dropping games against the Central League in the future because of the strength of the CL clubs, especially the Yomiuri Giants.

So much for that idea.

Through games of Thursday, the Pa Leaguers have gotten the better of the interleague play, winning 55 games and losing 35 with two ties. Look at the combined standings for the PL-vs.-CL schedule, and you will see the top six teams are all in the Pacific division, while the bottom half-dozen clubs are Central League members.

As for the Giants, they were at an even .500 with a record of 8-8.

The interleague “tournament” concludes on June 13, though at least three previously rained out games will have to be made up between June 14 and June 17 before regular league play resumes on June 18.

Those makeups involve the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, who were washed out twice against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and once with the Chunichi Dragons. If there are further rainouts of remaining outdoor games with the Fighters playing the Yokohama BayStars on Sunday, at Yokohama and Monday, at Sagamihara, a doubleheader may have to be scheduled.

A twin bill has not been played in either the Central or Pacific League in more than a decade because the Japanese Professional Baseball Players Union has expressed strong opposition to playing two games in one day.

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Old-timers in Japan may remember Clark Hatch, who owned and operated a chain of fitness centers in Tokyo and other Asian cities between 1965 and 2005.

Now living in Hawaii, Hatch has just finished writing a book titled, “Clark Hatch: Fitness Ambassador to Asia.” It is part autobiography and part chronological overview of the highly successful business he started in the Japanese capital 45 years ago.

The Hatch fitness centers served expatriate businesspeople in Tokyo, and his clientele included several foreign professional baseball players.

Clark recalls, “Quite a number of gaikokujin baseball stars worked out at my gym over the years, including John Sipin, Arturo Lopez, Jim Marshall, Jim Lefebvre, Wally Yonamine, George Altman, Ken Aspromonte and many others.”

In the book, Hatch tells how he expanded his first Tokyo gym into more than 120 state-of-the-art fitness centers in 14 Asian countries and around the world. Anyone wanting to buy it in Japan (price $16 or ¥1,600) may contact Bernd Langer at Concept International, c/o Lions Mansion #501, 5-61-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0053; tel: (03) 5770-3066,e-mail: b.f.langer@gmail.com

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Diamond Dust: Did you see the sayonara grand slam hit last week by Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels and the subsequent celebration that left him with a broken leg?

It happened in Anaheim on May 29 when his bases-loaded blast in the bottom of the ninth beat the Seattle Mariners.

While being mobbed by teammates at the plate, Morales took a flying leap, landed in a strange way on home plate and sustained the lower leg fracture. Most likely, the Angels’ leading hitter will be out for the season after undergoing surgery the day after he was hurt.

The incident reminds me of the strangest injury I have ever seen in Japanese baseball. It happened in 1990 when Hiromitsu Kadota of the Orix Braves hit a home run and, while being congratulated with a high-five by teammate Greg “Boomer” Wells, Kadota separated his shoulder.

As for walk-off hits, I like the Japanese way better: splashing water or squirting a drink at a player who wins a game in the team’s final at-bat is a lot safer than the major league-style riots.

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The Saitama Seibu Lions will wear throwback uniforms later this month and, again for old-timers in Japan, the look will bring back memories of almost 40 years ago. The Lions will appear in the 1973-74 outfits worn by the then-Taiheiyo Club Lions in Fukuoka and players, including Don Buford and Frank Howard.

Seibu club members will begin wearing the classic unis on June 26 in their game against the Orix Buffaloes at Seibu Dome, and they will use them for 14 games.

Once again, a Japanese team is digging into the recycle bin for a foreign player with the news the Orix Buffaloes are going to bring back first baseman Fernando Seguignol. This will be Seggy’s second tour in an Orix uniform, as he debuted in Japanese baseball in 2002 with the Orix BlueWave.

The Panamanian native switch hitter has also played with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (2004-07) and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2008-09).

It is not certain which other Japanese teams may still be looking to fortify their lineups with imported power, but other sluggers with experience in Japan who might get the call are Jose Fernandez who has already played for four Pacific League teams; Hiram Bocachica, with the Seibu Lions in 2008-09; and Dan Johnson, who hit 24 homers for the Yokohama BayStars last season.

Fernandez and Bocachica are currently playing in Mexico, and Johnson is with the Triple-A Durham Bulls, the top farm team of the Tampa Bay Rays. At last look, D.J. was batting .319 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs in 46 games.

Japanese teams have until the end of July to sign additional foreign players — newbies or retreads — this season.

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Contact Wayne Graczyk at:wayne@JapanBall.com