(This is a continuation of last week’s column with our report about new Hiroshima Carp manager Marty Brown and his thoughts on the challenge of taking over at the helm of the Central League club which has been a second-division team for the past seven seasons.)
Brown sat in at the annual draft meeting of college and industrial league players held in Tokyo on Nov. 20 and said he thought the Carp did well, but admits his participation was minimal.
He had just been named the Hiroshima manager and did not have time to study profiles of the players available in the pool.
From what he can tell, Brown thinks his club got some good prospects who may be able to help the team right away as rookies. He specifically mentioned shortstop Eishin Soyogi and pitcher Nobuaki Umehara.
Soyogi, 25, comes into the pros from company league team Nissan Motors, while Umehara, 22 and a right-hander, was a college star at Kyoto Gakuen who throws a 149-kph (93-mph) fastball.
Brown said he expects Soyogi to compete for a starting job in the middle of Hiroshima’s infield with Koji Yamazaki and Tomofumi Matsumoto, two players who showed promise toward the end of the 2005 season.
Brown spoke with Bobby Valentine at the draft confab and said the manager of the Japan champ Chiba Lotte Marines was very cordial, with welcoming words to the newest member of the now three-man fraternity of American managers in Japan.
With interleague play on the Japanese schedule, something unheard of when Marty played for the Carp 11-13 years ago, Brown will get to manage opposite Valentine and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters skipper Trey Hillman in six games against each.
That is, assuming Marty can last into the interleague season which begins May 9 and ends in mid-June.
Another American, Joe Lutz, managed the Carp in 1975 but made it only a month into the season, gone after a clash with team owners.
Brown naturally expects to be at his post all year and at least the following two seasons as well.
“The ownership has been great, very positive,” said Brown who has had no problems so far in his brief tenure and does not anticipate anything major such as the dispute Lutz had 30 years ago, when he complained of too much interference and not enough support from the front office.
Attitudes toward American managers have changed much in three decades, and even more dramatically in the last 10 years, as evidenced by what happened to Valentine after his first stint as Lotte manager in 1995, compared to this season.
Valentine and Hillman will each be entering their fourth year as managers of their respective teams, and there is no reason to think Brown will not last as long or longer.
The new Carp skipper attended the team’s Nov. 23 Fan Appreciation Day and other promotions, then returned to the U.S. Nov. 27.
He will come back to Japan Dec. 17 for a few more days’ preparation, go home to be with his family for the Christmas and New Year holidays, then fly back to Japan about Jan. 25 to check in at Hiroshima before opening spring camp Feb. 1.
He will lead the Red Helmets in the 2006 season opener against the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome on Friday night, March 31, and debut at home against the defending Central League champion Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday evening, April 4.
As Marty said, “I can’t wait for Opening Day.”
Neither can I.
Mini-book review: From Asahi to Zebras is the title of a new book by Ralph Pearce of San Jose, Calif. It is a chronology of Japanese American baseball in San Jose, beginning about 1913 and continuing through the days of World War II when the game was played under guard towers in internment camps.
Pearce has put together an interesting account of a bygone era as colorful as some of the nicknames of the Japanese Americans who made up the rosters of the Asahi, Zebras and other teams.
There was Babe Nomura, Fuzzy Shimada, T-Bone Akizuki, Chesty Okagaki, Rosie Matsui, Buddy Takata, Mushy Ishida and Moon Ikeda.
It is a book, not only about baseball, but also the story of how Americans of Japanese ancestry lived in the U.S. throughout the 20th century, with their ardent love of the game a very important part of their lives.
Pearce has done an excellent job of interviewing former players and family members of those connected with Japanese American baseball during those turbulent times, and presenting their recollections.
From Asahi to Zebras is published by the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. It costs $19 within the U.S. or $25 to Japan (prices include shipping).
Payment may be made by credit card (PayPal) by going to: www.jamsj.org and clicking on “New at JAMsj” or by sending a check or International Money Order to: JAMsj, Attn: Eva Yamamoto, 535 N. Fifth St., San Jose, CA 95112 USA. Phone: (408) 294-3138.
Finally this week, welcome to another new sponsor of the “Baseball-In” column, and my thanks to David Toda and all the kind folks at Quiksilver Japan for their interest and support.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com
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