SAPPORO – About 2,000 die-hard fans turned out Wednesday to cheer former major leaguer Tsuyoshi Shinjo after he held an unusual open press conference — smack in the middle of Sapporo Dome — to wrap up his official signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Shinjo, who looked more like a movie star in his white leather jacket as enthusiastic women screamed his name, said he was impressed by the field he will call home after inking a two-year, 80 million yen deal.
“This is incredible. Honestly, I had no idea that the stadium (Sapporo Dome) was this impressive,” Shinjo said. “I will focus all my efforts on playing baseball.”
The 31-year-old Shinjo, who was released by the New York Mets at the conclusion of the 2003 season after being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, fielded questions on everything but baseball.
Always the joker, Shinjo told his lady fans, who ranged from young mothers with their toddlers to elderly women and their husbands, “If you see me on the street, give me a big hug.”
“I heard Shinjo was coming and I decided to become a Fighters’ fan. He’s more good-looking in person,” said Chie Itami, a 26-year-old from Ishikari, Hokkaido.
Ten-year-old Shogo Kishi, a fourth-grader who plays little league baseball, said, “Shinjo is great at defense. I can’t wait to see him play in a real game.”
Shinjo, formerly of the Hanshin Tigers, told the children he hopes they will come see the Fighters play during the regular season and to keep a watchful eye out him in center field.
In three major league seasons, Shinjo batted .245 with 20 homers and 100 RBIs in 303 games.
Yomiuri GM responds
Yomiuri Giants general manager Hideaki Miyama responded Wednesday to a letter of protest sent to the team’s front office by Kimihito Kato — the agent and lawyer of Giants’ right-hander Koji Uehara.
In the letter, Kato asked the Central League team to respect his role as Uehara’s agent after Miyama said a document Kato had submitted to him to oversee Uehara’s contract talks lacked an essential bar association number.
“I checked his protest to us thoroughly and sent a response via registered mail,” Miyama said. “In the letter I carefully explained our position, but I cannot reveal the contents before the letter has reached him.”
Last Thursday, Miyama reportedly said, “These negotiations were not conducted with an agent,” though Kato had been present for the duration of the talks in which the 28-year-old Uehara landed a one-year, 300 million yen deal.
Miyama even went as far to say that Kato had understood from their first meeting that he was never an agent in the talks.
“From the first or second time we talked, and after concluding the contract, I thought we had reached common ground since both parties had stressed their positions,” Miyama said, correcting his earlier statement.
Former major league pitcher Satoru Komiyama, who missed all of this past season, will return to the Chiba Lotte Marines for the first time in five years.
“Valentine told me that he wanted Komiyama,” Lotte acting owner Akio Shigemitsu said Tuesday. I knew that Komiyama wanted to play so I told Valentine, OK. It isn’t the best deal but I think he can be all right with this,” said Shigemitsu.
The Marines will reportedly offer Komiyama a one-year, 40 million yen deal.
Tigers ink outfielder
NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. (Kyodo) The Hanshin Tigers have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers position player Mike Kinkade as an outfielder on a one-year deal for $800,000, the Central League club said Wednesday.
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