The Pacific League’s board of directors on Tuesday approved the move of the Nippon Ham Fighters to Hokkaido for the 2004 season when the team will take up residence at the Sapporo Dome and be known as the “Sapporo Nippon Ham Fighters.”

The decision will be formalized with the approval of the league’s executive committee on July 4 and the league’s owners committee on July 9.

The move would be the first for a Japanese baseball team since 1992, when the Lotte Orions moved from Kawasaki to Chiba.

“With the move, we will do our best to put down roots (in Sapporo) and win the support of the fans,” Nippon Ham club president Takeshi Kojima said after the PL decision.

He also expressed gratitude to Seibu Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, who ended his opposition to the move on Monday and opened the door for the Fighters to relocate in Sapporo.

Seibu had originally opposed Nippon Ham’s move to Hokkaido because of its own plans to use the Sapporo Dome as a second home ballpark away from the Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

Kojima submitted documents to the commissioner’s office in April seeking approval for the move from Tokyo to Sapporo.

Nippon Ham had been studying the feasibility of the move to Sapporo since city officials there sounded out the club on becoming the first professional baseball team to be based on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

Cabrera off roster

The Seibu Lions took infielder Alex Cabrera off the 28-man active roster Tuesday, saying the Venezuelan slugger appears to have a pain in his lower back caused by fatigue.

Cabrera complained of a pain in the left side of his lower back in last Saturday’s 11-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines and was replaced during the game.

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