Baseball / Japanese Baseball

NPB begins hearings on Rakuten, Livedoor bids

The public hearing for the two companies that have applied for membership to Nippon Professional Baseball began Wednesday with the two sides presenting their business propositions before a panel of baseball executives.

News photoHiroshima Carp’s Shigenobu Shima singles off Yokohama BayStars starter Scott Mullen at Hiroshima Stadium. It was the 189th hit of the season for Shima, who needs three more to tie the Central League record.

Internet mall operator Rakuten Inc. and Internet service provider Livedoor Co., which are vying to fill the void in the Pacific League left by the merger between the Orix BlueWave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes, were given an hour and a half each to discuss team and budget blueprints.

Livedoor President Takafumi Horie and Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani took part in the question-and-answer session based on their entry applications filed to NPB last month.

Both applicants racing to establish a new professional baseball team are planning to locate the team’s hometown in Sendai with Rakuten hiring sports commentator Marty Kuehnert as general manager and Livedoor eyeing former major leaguer Tom O’Malley as a managerial candidate.

The five-man panel that will report the screening results to a special committee that may select Rakuten or Livedoor as a new NPB member on Oct. 29 includes Central League chairman Hajime Toyokura and head officials of the Yomiuri Giants, Yokohama BayStars, Seibu Lions and Chiba Lotte Marines.

The screening will be held twice a week until Oct. 29 and a final decision is expected at the owners meeting on Nov. 2.

To ensure that the case is administered fairly and clearly, the meeting was disclosed to the media through a television monitor.

The screening standards include the adequacy of the applications, the prospective continuity and stability of the planned baseball teams, the prospective financial standings of the applicants and planned teams, and their planned baseball facilities.

Merger ax falls

The Orix BlueWave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes, which will merge into a single team next season, released a combined 10 players from their contracts, officials of the Pacific League clubs said on Wednesday.

Leading the list was 39-year-old right-hander Masato Yoshii, who played two seasons with the BlueWave after a stint in the majors, and 35-year-old infielder Takeshi Yamasaki, who joined the BlueWave after winning the Central League home run title with the Chunichi Dragons in 1996.

Also among the released players were 34-year-old Motoyuki Akahori, who spent 16 seasons with the Buffaloes while winning the best reliever’s award fives times in the PL, and 39-year-old right-hander Shinichi Kato, who played his 21st season with the Buffaloes.

The merger was given the final seal of approval late last month when the baseball management and the players association reached an agreement to maintain the 12-team system, ending an unprecedented labor dispute in the 70-year history of Japanese professional baseball.

Tamura rips 40th

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Hitoshi Tamura hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning — his 40th circuit clout of the season — for the eventual game winner as the Yokohama BayStars mounted a late rally and held on for a 6-5 victory over the Carp at Hiroshima Stadium on Wednesday night.

Hiroshima’s Shigenobu Shima singled in the first inning for his 189th hit of the season, putting him just three shy of tying the Central League’s single-season hits record.

Scott Mullen (7-9) gave up three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win.

Takaya Kawauchi (8-9) was charged with four runs in 5 1/3 innings and took the loss for the Carp.