Not every American in this part of the world was celebrating Monday afternoon when the United States upset Mexico 2-0 in the World Cup.
Take Tom Evans, for example.
About a half hour after he turned on his TV and watched the U.S. score its first goal, the Seibu Lions third baseman was dozing in his chair.
“I wanted to watch the game, but I was also really exhausted,” said Evans, a Washington State native. “I just couldn’t stay awake.”
Considering the kind of month Evans has been having, it was a nap well earned.
Since joining the Lions late last month, Evans has been hitting .416 with 12 RBIs and four home runs — including a grand slam in Seibu’s 11-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines on Saturday.
Not surprisingly, the Lions have won nine of the 10 games Evans has played in. Seibu now sits in first place with a 36-18 record and a cozy 3.5-game lead over the second-place Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.
The timing of Evans’ hot streak couldn’t have been better for the Lions. Things were looking bleak for Seibu, which lost four of five games before Evans joined the team’s lineup on May 31.
Regular third baseman Scott McClain returned to the United States with a wrist injury in May and ace right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka has been sitting on the sidelines with a sore elbow for the last month.
McClain’s injury prompted the Lions to start searching for a midseason replacement. But instead of dispatching scouts to North America, the Lions decided to give the Hanshin Tigers a call.
Evans joined the Tigers last season and reportedly impressed then-manager Katsuya Nomura. Although Evans played part of the season on Hanshin’s minor-league club, Nomura said he appreciated Evans’ work ethic and his easygoing attitude.
“When they sent me down, I told them, ‘Hey, I’m going to work hard,’ because I know a lot of Americans complain and just go through the motions,” Evans said.
“I had made a decision to come to Japan and I had talked to some guys that had played here, like (former Hanshin outfielder) Alonzo Powell, so I kind of knew what to expect. It was my choice, so I decided to make the best of it.”
When Nomura resigned last December shortly after his wife was indicted for tax evasion, Senichi Hoshino was asked to manage the team and Evans didn’t fit into the new skipper’s plans.
Hoshino stocked the Tigers with two solid American sluggers — former Orix BlueWave infielder George Arias and ex-Colorado Rockies outfielder Derrick White — and in the process built the lowly Tigers into a contender.
“As far as Hoshino goes, I think he wanted to go a different direction and the way it turned out, you can’t really blame him,” Evans said. “Not with the way those guys have been playing.”
But after spending the first two months of this season on Hanshin’s farm team — and playing in front of sparse “crowds” numbering in the hundreds rather than the thousands — Evans was ready for a change of scenery.
So when the Tigers told him that they had traded him to Seibu for relief pitcher Takehiro Hashimoto, Evans decided to make the best of the situation.
“I went to meet them (the team representatives) for lunch and they told me I’d been traded,” Evans recalled. “At that point I was pretty happy to get another shot at getting back up with a big-league club.”
How long Evans remains on Seibu’s top team, however, is a question that is still up in the air.
First baseman Alex Cabrera leads the team with 18 home runs and 43 RBIs, which gives the Venezuelan slugger a secure place in the Lions’ lineup (although he was recently removed from the 28-man active roster with back pain). That means Evans may again become the odd man out when McClain returns to Japan.
But for now — like many Americans this week — Evans is just savoring the moment.
“I’ve always been the kind of player that gets hot sometimes,” he said. “But it’s a long year, and you kind of have to keep yourself in check because you’re gonna come back down again.”
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