Nippon Professional Baseball officially kicked off the countdown to this year’s All-Star series during a news conference on Thursday at a Tokyo Hotel.
The My Navi All-Star Game 2017 will be held on July 14 and 15, with Game 1 scheduled to take place at Nagoya Dome and Game 2 to be played at Zozo Marine Stadium. The league announced fan voting will begin next Tuesday.
The All-Star teams will be chosen by votes from fans and players and finally selections by Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, who will lead the Pacific League, and Hiroshima Carp skipper Koichi Ogata, who will be in charge of the Central League squad.
“There are so many amazing players in the Japanese baseball landscape, so I’m looking forward to it,” Kuriyama said.
An initial tally of the voting will be announced on May 22, with the final results revealed June 26.
“I hope the fans really enjoy it, and I also want the players to have fun playing,” Ogata said. “I really hope it’s a wonderful game.”
The two managers were the guest attendees during the news conference, which also saw appearances by the mascots for the two host teams, the Chunichi Dragons’ Doala and Mar-Kun of the Chiba Lotte Marines, and Tokyo Yakult Swallows mascot Tsubakuro, who showed up just because. The two managers touched on a few players they have been impressed by in their own leagues and were each asked to choose one from the opposing league.
“(Yoshio) Itoi stands out,” Kuriyama said of the Hanshin Tigers outfielder. Itoi is hitting .325 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.
Ogata, meanwhile, chose a player who hasn’t seen the field much this season.
“Honestly, I really want to see (Shohei) Otani,” he said almost sheepishly as he smiled at Kuriyama, referring to the Fighters star who has missed most of the season because of injuries. Otani has played in just eight games, though he has a pair of home runs.
There will be a home run derby prior to each game and this year’s Japanese baseball Hall of Fame inductees will be honored before Game 1.
The league will raise money for charity through an auction featuring the uniforms worn by the 2017 All-Stars. Chief sponsor My Navi is also inviting to each game around 500 people who were evacuated to Aichi and Chiba prefectures after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.