Washington Nationals director of Pacific Rim scouting Marty Brown just completed a second trip to Japan this season.
The former Hiroshima Carp and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles manager is enjoying his job with the National League team, especially since he gets to return to his old stomping ground and keep up the friendships he made during his three years as a Carp player (1992-94) and five years managing (2006-10) in the Central and Pacific Leagues.
Brown is in his second year scouting with the Nationals but says he does miss managing.
“I miss being on the field and the actual strategy of the game and the one-on-one time with the players; being able to build confidence and making a player believe in himself — those kinds of things,” he said.
Brown has good memories of his time leading the Carp and Eagles and recalled a time when Hiroshima was playing the BayStars at Yokohama Stadium late in the 2008 season when his status for the following year was somewhat in doubt.
“It was my third year,” he said. “The Carp fans in left field held up a huge banner saying, ‘Bring Him Back,’ and I thought that was cool.”
Brown also had a reputation for pulling bases out of the ground and kicking dirt on home plate when he had a disagreement with the umpires, and he recalled when umpire Katsumi Manabe threw him out of a game for the first time.
“That is not a real fond memory, but it is a memory,” Brown said, laughing.
He was later tossed many times, and the base-throwing and dirt-kicking incidents became scenes of comedy still viewed occasionally on baseball highlight (lowlight?) TV programs. Some of the Carp players and staff even wore T-shirts emblazoned with the message, “My manager throws bases.”
Recalling the year (2007) when there were four American managers guiding Japanese teams, Brown said, “I felt positive about the opportunity for myself, and I think for the others; Bobby (Valentine), Trey (Hillman) and Terry (Collins), we all had things to offer, and we all served our purpose.
“For whatever reason, the organizations decided to put Japanese managers back in after we left,” he said. Asked if he would accept another chance to manage in Japan if he were asked, he said, “Oh, yeah. I’d love to.”
He watched his old club play the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome earlier this month and said, “I think the Carp have a real exciting team. I don’t know (current Hiroshima manager Koichi) Ogata’s style, but I know from being teammates with Ogata and having managed him, his intentions are always going to be positive.”
Brown likes the way the Carp pretty much put a consistent lineup on the field and said he wishes he had some of the current stars on the Hiroshima team during his term as skipper. He mentioned second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, shortstop Kosuke Tanaka and center fielder and leadoff man Yoshihiro Maru as most impressive.
Like many MLB scouts, Brown does not often go to his team’s home city. He’s based in Missouri, near St. Louis, and he scouts Triple-A games in the area when he is not on a trip to Asia. He’s never been to Nationals Park in Washington but hopes to go there to see the Nats play in the 2015 World Series.
At the All-Star break, the team was in first place in the National League East with a two-game lead.
It remains to be seen if Washington or another major league team will sign any Japanese stars in the coming years, but would the Nationals be looking to acquire a pitcher such as Shohei Otani, Kenta Maeda, Shintaro Fujinami or Chihiro Kaneko, if and when they become available through posting or international free agency?
Brown commented on two of them.
“I’m really here to see everybody, but I thoroughly enjoy watching Otani play, whether he is in the lineup hitting third or if he’s pitching. He’s got electric stuff and exciting velocity, but he’s got to become more of a pitcher than a thrower,” Brown said of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters two-way star player.
“Fujinami I’ve seen in his two years a pro, where he’s been indecisive on the mound with not much poise, working really slow, and then I’ve seen him with a great tempo overpowering hitters. He’s a young guy, tall with leverage on the ball down,” said Brown about the Hanshin Tigers right-hander.
He added, “They are two exciting young arms, but how and when they might have the opportunity to go to the States, obviously health would be a question with guys who throw that hard.”
Brown said, in addition to continuing his scouting work, he would like to start his own business by opening a baseball-softball academy for youngsters in Missouri. “I’m in the process of renting a building, getting the turf and netting . . . I’ve wanted to do it for years,” he said, thinking maybe some Japanese kids might even go there to work out and take instructions.
Brown married a Japanese woman while he was still managing the Carp in 2009, and he says his wife Kyoko often cooks Japanese food in their American midwest home. His job with the Nationals offers him the chance to enjoy the best of both worlds—working in baseball at home in the U.S. and traveling two or three times a year to his “second home” in Japan.
He’ll be back here in September.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com