The Chunichi Sports is reporting former Chunichi Dragons first baseman Tyrone Woods wants to continue playing in Japan.

It has been decided the 10-year Asia veteran will leave the Central League team after four seasons in Nagoya, preceded by two years with the Yokohama BayStars and four in Korea.

But, is there a team that will suit him?

The now 39-year-old slugger had said at the end of the 2006 campaign, “All I want is one more two-year contract, and I’ll call it a career.”

He got that, but the pact that paid him a reported ¥600 million per season has run out and so has his time with the Dragons, a team that seems to be falling apart.

Chunichi last year lost All-Star right-fielder Kosuke Fukudome to the Chicago Cubs, and now third baseman Norihiro Nakamura is heading north to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Sendai.

Ace pitcher Kenshin Kawakami has also filed for free agency and may be following Fukudome to the majors.

Clubs in the Central League that might need a gaikokujin first baseman probably could not afford to pay the T-Man a fair salary.

He could go to a Pacific League team where the designated hitter rule is used, and this is not a knock on Woods’ fielding ability; he is a more than adequate defensive player.

If there is interest from a PL entity, it would have to be from a city along the beaten path where travel is easier, as he has expressed his dislike for flying and preference for riding the bullet trains.

“I would not want to play for the Nippon Ham Fighters,” he said, reiterating as late as this past August, his intention to retire. “Every road trip in and out of Sapporo is a flight,” he pointed out.

There is no question Woods still has the awesome power and sweet swing that have made him one of the most feared hitters in Japanese baseball since 2003. He’s won three home run titles and an RBI crown, two Central League pennants and a Japan Series.

Sure, he will turn 40 next season (born Aug. 19, 1969), but he is in great shape, and there is no reason he cannot keep up with Tuffy Rhodes, the Orix Buffaloes slugger who is a year older and slammed 40 homers in 2008.

Can Woods find a new employer here, or will he call it quits and retire to his home in Florida?

I hope he comes back.

* * * * *

Japanese sports newspapers reported recently the Yomiuri Giants are thinking to change the official name designation of 2008 Central League MVP Alex Ramirez.

In 2009, he may be known as “Rami-chan.”

That is how he would be registered with the league office, and the name on the back of his jersey would appear as such. On the scoreboard at Tokyo Dome and visiting ballparks and in box scores in the vernacular papers, it would say “Rami” in katakana and “chan” in hiragana.

Ramirez refers to himself as “Rami-chan” in on-field post-home run “performances,” and several teammates call him by the affectionate Japanese style. He would be the second Latin player to use the suffix “-chan” on the Giants.

First baseman-outfielder Domingo Martinez (1999-2001) was called “Maru-chan” but was not officially registered that way.

Foreign players registered by their first names, nicknames, initials, shortened versions of their family names and even their full names has been common practice over the years in Japanese baseball.

Remember Jack and Spike?

How about Animal, Boomer, Bump and Bullet?

Recall Shane, Pete, Windy and Willie?

Two guys named Ron, two others who went by Steve, two Georges and a pair of Garys?

We have had players officially registered by the following designations, and all are something different from their last names:

Leon, Mario, Jerry, Jester, Terry, MICHEAL (in all caps), Roger, Denny, Jay Jay, Nicholas, Blazer, Burkleo, Wilson, Alex, Shane, Adam, Chuck, Rick, Domingo, Luis, Lance, Fred, Bart, Barbi, Roy, Joselo, Damon, Benny, Darwin, Cedrick, David, Robert, J.P., D.J. and C.D.

I’ll bet you a pizza you cannot give me the full names of all those mentioned above, and here are a couple of anecdotes about how some of these names came about.

When relief pitcher Bob Reynolds joined the Taiyo Whales in 1977, a team P.R. man asked if he had a nickname.

“When I was younger and with the Montreal Expos, I could really throw hard, so they called me ‘Bullet,’ ” he responded, thinking the guy was just making conversation.

The next day, an equipment man brought Reynolds’ uniform to his locker and, on the back of his jersey, above the No. 31, it read “Bullet.”

That was his official name in Japanese baseball, how he was announced over the Kawasaki Stadium P.A. system and how he was identified in newspaper box scores.

Sometimes a player is called by his first name because the meaning of his last name has a negative connotation. George Hinshaw (Chunichi Dragons, 1989) went by “George” because the Japanization of Hinshaw, pronounced “Hinsho,” can mean “bad business.”

Can’t have that.

When the Rakuten Eagles signed Damon Minor in 2005, they listed him as “Damon,” because they did not want anyone to think they had signed a minor leaguer.

For sure.

At least four Americans have been registered by their full names: Terry Lee (Kintetsu Buffaloes, 1983), Vance Law (Chunichi Dragons, 1990), Ty Gainey (Orix BlueWave, 1993) and Matt White (Yokohama BayStars, 2007-08).

White said, “A lot of Japanese people thought my last name is Mattwhite. Like I’m Bob Mattwhite or Joe Mattwhite.”

If indeed Ramirez becomes “Rami-chan,” he would be the latest in a long line of players using this curious quirk of Japanese baseball.

* * * * *

Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.