It seems like the only time Yomiuri Giants scout Fernando Seguignol looks back is when it’s to count his blessings.
Seguignol played eight seasons in Japan and the baseball culture left an indelible mark on the Panamanian switch hitter. Now in his fourth year as a scout for Japan’s most storied club and the three-time reigning Central League champions, Seguignol is relishing the lessons he’s learning and excited about those he still needs to take in.
“Scouting is a different world. But now that I’m doing it, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever did,” he told Kyodo News recently at Tokyo Dome.
“Just kind of soaking it in, seeing the game from a different perspective is a really good thing. I don’t know if (scouting) will be better than my career, because that is what it is. But at the same time, there are a lot of things we take for granted when we play. It’s more knowledge now. It’s seeing guys develop. That’s the great thing, a great experience.”
“When I started out, it was overwhelming, looking into everything. I had game experience behind my head. You know, ‘I could have hit that pitch or I could have…’ But you’ve got to push that away. You’ve got to forget about the results and think about exactly what the guys are actually doing. It’s interesting.”
Seguignol was in Japan to help new Giants signing Juan Francisco get up to speed with the change of pace that Nippon Professional Baseball presents. Francisco got off to a rough start and was sent to the minors after five games; it is a difficult adjustment that Seguignol knows from experience.
In 2002, Seguignol got his own baptism of fire with the Orix BlueWave. He said he began figuring things out halfway through the season that ended with Orix releasing him. Undeterred, Seguignol returned home and adopted a Japanese approach to the game to remake himself as a player.
“My first year was one of those times, where I had the new culture and it was really tough, baseball-wise,” he said. “I didn’t really get it until like midpoint. I started having more fun. I started accepting where I was and what I wanted to do and how things work here.”
“Season’s over, I get back into it within a month. I hire a personal trainer — first time. I never did that before, but I had a little money. I invested it in my body. My work ethic changed. I got more disciplined. Once spring training came around, I got invited to major league camp with the (New York) Yankees and everybody was telling me how good I was looking. I was running faster, I was hitting the ball consistently hard every day.”
“Looking around me at the guys in Triple-A, I tell them they didn’t know what was going on in Japan, and they were taking stuff for granted. ‘Do infield every day, do this.’ There were things they did over here that they weren’t taking seriously over there. So I was taking it seriously, Japanese style, in the States and I had a great year.”
Seguignol’s season — he led the International League in home runs and RBIs while batting .341 — caught the eye of a former Yankees minor league manager, Trey Hillman, who took over Nippon Ham in 2003, and the Fighters brought Seguignol back for 2004 when he had his career year.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “They wanted me back and I wanted to come back and prove that I was this guy and not the guy they’d seen earlier. So there were many things on my shoulder. It was gratifying.”
Seguignol won two Pacific League Best Nine Awards over five seasons in Sapporo, during which the club won two pennants. He spent another 1-1/2 years with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles before finishing where he started with Orix in 2010. When all was said and done, Seguignol hit 172 home runs and drove in 483 runs in Japan.
Not long after he returned to the United States, he began hearing from the Giants and after a lengthy process, signed on to scour the upper reaches of the minors for players who can make the adjustment to the game, the country and the Giants’ exacting standards.
“I know the history. I didn’t play for the Giants, but I know there’s a lot of pride,” he said. “In Japan, I accept the culture. You know with this team that’s the way it has to be, or you better take another road.”