The Nikkan Sports paper claimed in back-to-back front pages on Aug. 11-12 that former Chunichi Dragons and Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino has been offered the job to head the Yomiuri Giants in 2006.
However, the majority of media people covering games at Tokyo Dome say it will be someone other than Hoshino who will be introduced as the new Kyojin skipper after the current season ends.
The general consensus for doubting a Hoshino-Yomiuri deal centers around three factors:
1) Hoshino is under contract to the Tigers, with the title of senior adviser to the team president, so the Giants could not have made him an offer.
2) Having Hoshino become the Yomiuri manager would “spoil the aura” of the Giants who have always appointed a former Y.G. player to be the field boss.
3) There is a health issue, as evidenced by the fact Hoshino resigned the Hanshin managerial post following the 2003 season because of stress, high blood pressure and heart trouble. The strain was bad enough leading the Tigers; with the Giants it would be even tougher.
The feeling I get suggests, at this point, the chances of Hoshino becoming the Yomiuri skipper are about 20 percent.
I am guessing there is about a 70 percent probability the successor to current Giants field boss Tsuneo Horiuchi will be one of the three often-mentioned former Giants stars: Kiyoshi Nakahata, Tatsunori Hara or Suguru Egawa. The door remains open, with approximately a 10 percent chance, for the possibility the team may hire a foreign manager.
We’ll know in about six weeks but, right now, it does not seem Hoshino is as much of a lock as the Nikkan and other sources are leading us to believe.
One of the top baseball men in the field of Japan-U.S. relations, Kuniaki “Luigi” Nakajima, has joined the Yomiuri Giants international department after working for the Yakult Swallows more than 30 years.
He helped bring to Japan a host of successful and memorable foreign players, many of whom contributed to the Swallows Central League championships in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2001, including ’92 CL MVP Jack Howell and home run kings Larry Parrish, Dwayne Hosey, Roberto Petagine and Alex Ramirez.
Nakajima also had a big hand in getting Tom O’Malley and Hensley Meulens from other Japanese teams in 1995.
Both played big parts in the Swallows winning the Japan Series that year (O’Malley was named MVP for the regular season and the Series). They were joined by another Nakajima find, pitcher Terry Bross who was 14-5, led the CL with a 2.33 ERA and no-hit the Giants at Tokyo Dome on Sept. 9.
Yomiuri is obviously bringing in a guy with Nakajima’s experience and track record for judging foreign player talent in an effort to avoid repetition of this year’s problems with pitcher Dan Miceli and outfielder Gabe Kapler, who were unable to make the adjustment to Japanese baseball and returned to the U.S.
Nakajima was Yakult’s team interpreter in 1973 when the infamous Joe Pepitone joined the Swallows for what turned out to be a lackluster 14-game Japan career.
In Pepitone’s book, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” Nakajima is mentioned often by Pepi in the chapter about the player’s brief Japanese career. That’s when he was an Italian citizen and went by the name of Luigi Fidanza. He later became a Japanese national and took the name Nakajima.
Still called “Luigi” by his many friends in global baseball circles, Nakajima over the years worked his way into the Yakult front office and was the Swallows international affairs director until he resigned in June to take the job with the Giants.
With Luigi’s input, we’ll see what kind of players Yomiuri imports for next season and how close they may come to actually getting that foreign manager.
The Chiba Lotte Marines will hold Hawaiian Night at Chiba Marine Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 23, when they host the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at 6:15 p.m.
Any fan who wears an aloha shirt or dress, muu-muu or sarong gets a discounted ticket plus a lucky card for a drawing with the grand prize a trip for two to Hawaii, including tickets on Japan Air Lines and hotel accommodations.
Other prizes include dinner at Konishiki’s restaurant in Tokyo and Hawaiian clothing items, and the first 1,000 people through the gates will receive a pair of beach sandals from JAL.
The vacation winning number will be announced following the seventh inning by Konishiki, former sumo star and Hawaii native, who will stage a pre-game song-and-dance show with more than 130 Hawaiian entertainers. Aloha!
Chiba Lotte will then wrap up the summer vacation season with Kids Week Aug. 24-28, planning five days of events for younger fans.
Each night, the Marines will offer on-field pre-game entertainment geared toward children and families, kids base-running after the game (unless it ends after 9:30 p.m.), and children performing the national anthem and announcing the starting lineups.
On Aug. 24, a new mascot character will be introduced, and Aug. 26 will be “Family and Friends Friday.”
The price for all soft drinks that night will be only 100 yen and, with the purchase of three or more game tickets, general admission will be 1,000 yen (reduced from 2,300 yen) for adults and 500 yen (reduced from 1,200 yen) for children.
Opponents are the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Aug. 24 and 25, and the Orix Buffaloes on Aug. 26, 27 and 28. Game time each evening is 6:15 p.m.
Finally this week, in response to my July 24 column, the Marc Kroon nickname suggestions are in.
Your ideas included: “Bullet Kroon,” “Crooked Cap Kroon,” “The Swoon,” “Zoom Zoom,” “Macaroon,” “The Cookie,” “The Crooner,” “Arizona Express,” “Bronx Express” and “Typhoon Kroon.”
The top three, though, are: “The Nail,” “Gaimajin,” and “Speed Stick” (the brand name of a deodorant?)
“The Nail” came from my reference in the column to “the nail that sticks up . . .” but it can also stand for the fact Kroon comes in to “nail down” the victories for the Yokohama BayStars.
“Gaimajin” is a take off, with the suggestion of a foreigner, on the “Daimajin” identity of Kazuhiro Sasaki who Kroon replaced, and the “Speed Stick” combines Kroon’s hard throwing and his tall, lanky frame.
With that, we’ll close the subject but hope one of the nicknames will catch on.
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