Five recent developments in Japanese baseball and among its ballpark ambassadors Stateside:
- At the NPB Awards on Thursday, Giants pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano and Hawks slugger Yuki Yanagita picked up their leagues’ MVP prizes, reports Jason Coskrey. Though many also tipped Sugano to take the Sawamura Award again last month, that wasn’t to be, as Kaz Nagatsuka explains. As for the Shoriki Award, no prizes for guessing which manager bagged that (again) this year.
- Sugano has asked the Giants to make him available to major league teams via the posting system, it was reported earlier this month. Sugano has long spoken of his dream of playing in the majors but sacrificed that goal and his entire 2012 season to play for his uncle, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, from 2013.
- Spencer Patton, the bearded American reliever Yokohama BayStars fans call “Shogun,” has found himself a free agent in strange times. In an interview with the JT, he reflects on four seasons in the NPB — including a “boneheaded incident” involving a dugout fridge — and ponders what the future might hold. “I’m open to coming back to Japan, I’m not going to shut the door on that,” he tells Coskrey.
- Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish was named one of the five starting pitchers on the All-MLB first team last week after missing out on the National League Cy Young Award last month. This is the second year for All-MLB first and second teams, instituted by the league to recognize the top individual performances by players each season. No Japanese players were selected in 2019.
- Seattle Mariners special assistant Ichiro Suzuki wrapped up his high school coaching debut on Dec. 4 after three days as a special instructor with schoolboy baseball powerhouse Chiben Wakayama. Normally, no person still affiliated with a pro team is permitted to coach high school or college players — but hey, this is Ichiro. He was given a special exemption, because, well, he’s Ichiro.