Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spring Training In The US For NPB Teams

1983 NST #147

2004 BBM Tigers #T95

The NPB Champion Fighters are returning to Peoria Arizona next February for spring training.  They won't be there quite as long as this past year due to the World Baseball Classic but they will be there for 10 days.  I will try to put out more information about who's actually going to be in camp when it becomes available although it's very unlikely that I will be able to go this time - I'm planning on using my travel money and leave to go to the WBC finals in Los Angeles instead.

I've been wanting for a while to attempt to put together a comprehensive list of all the times that NPB teams have come to the US for spring training.  I've been doing a bunch of research over the past few weeks and I've come up with the following list:

Years Team Location Host Notes
1953 Yomiuri Giants Santa Maria, CA
1960 Nankai Hawks Hawaii
1961 Yomiuri Giants Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
1967 Yomiuri Giants Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
1969-75? Hiroshima Toyo Carp Tucson, AZ Indians May not have been every year
1971 Yomiuri Giants Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
19701971-72 Lotte Orions Casa Grande, AZ Giants
1975 Chunichi Dragons Bradenton, FL
1975 Yomiuri Giants Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
1978-99 Yakult Swallows Yuma, AZ Padres
1979 Seibu Lions Bradenton, FL
1981 Hanshin Tigers Tempe, AZ Mariners
1981 Yokohama Taiyo Whales Mesa, AZ Cubs
1981 Yomiuri Giants Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
1984 Seibu Lions Mesa, AZ Cubs
1986 Nippon-Ham Fighters Delray, FL
1987 Nippon-Ham Fighters Sarasota, FL Royals
1988 Chunichi Dragons Vero Beach, FL Dodgers
1989 Fukuoka Daiei Hawks Hawaii
1990's Seibu Lions Maui, HI Last year was 1996
1995 Chunichi Dragons Peoria, AZ Mariners
1995-98 Chiba Lotte Marines Peoria, AZ Padres
2016-17 Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Peoria, AZ Padres
2018-19 Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Scottsdale, AZ Rockies?

I don't know if this is everything, but this is everything that I was able to find anything about.  This only includes "full" teams coming over, not the times where there were just a couple players who came over (like when Orix sent three players - Ichiro Suzuki, Nobuyuki Hoshino and Nobuyuki Ebisu - to spring training with the Mariners in 1999).  I saw hints somewhere that the Kintetsu Buffaloes had trained at Dodgertown in Vero Beach but I could never pin the time frame down or whether it was in the spring or fall (UPDATE - it was the fall of 2002 and 2003).  The two "Hawks in Hawaii" listings come from the Hawks' Japanese wikipedia page with no further information.

Here's my list of sources (you'll notice in some articles that the references to NPB teams training in the US are very incidental):
"Japan And Dodgertown" from the Dodgertown web site
"Japanese Baseball In Arizona" by brian5123
Japanese wikipedia pages for the Lions, Fighters, Dragons and Marines.

From Sports Illustrated:
"Japan's Mr Oh Hits More Homers Than Big Boog" by Roy Blount Jr, 3/29/1971
"Quick, Nagayama, The Needle" by Roy Blount Jr, 6/5/1972
"Where East Meets West" 3/29/1982
"Rising Sun Meets Desert Sun" by Leo W.Banks, 3/24/1997

From The New York Times:
"Another Spring Showdown" by Joseph Durso, 2/22/1981
"Sports of The Times; Baseball's Harmonious Environment" by Harvey Araton, 2/15/1995
"Padres Strike Deal With Team In Japan" by Murray Chass, 1/16/1997

Other sources:
"Japanese Orions Defeat Giants in 12 Innings, 4-3", Chicago Tribune 3/23/1970
"Along The Sports Trail" by Robert Markus, Chicago Tribune 3/12/1971
Tucson Daily Citizen, 3/11/1972
"Sox lose...unofficially" by Richard Dozer, Chicago Tribune 3/1/1979
"Delray Strikes Out With Japanese Baseball Team" by Joseph Schwerdt, Broward & Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel, 3/6/1987
"Winter Ball Seen As Plus For Hawaii" by Cindy Luis, Honolulu Star-Bulletin 8/9/1996
"Sayanora To The Swallows Of Winter", Bloomberg News, 4/26/1999
Amazing Tales From The Indians Dugout by Russel Schneider

As a baseball card guy, of course, the big question for me is - are there any baseball cards featuring photos from the US?  And the answer is yes.  I've pointed out in the past that the Giants visit to Vero Beach in 1975 was featured on cards in both the 1974/75 Calbee set and the 1975 NST "Mr Baseball" set.  The Giants return in 1981 was featured in the 1983 NST set as well (which the card at the top of this post came from).  And last February's Fighters trip to Peoria made it onto a couple of BBM's 1st Version cards (as well as the BBM/Nippon-Ham Nippon-Ham Fighters food issue set) from this year.  I went spelunking through my 1990's BBM cards for the Swallows, Lions, Marines and Dragons and found cards with photos that might have been taken in the US, but nothing that was definite.  Not knowing who for certain went to the US for the team and not being familiar with the training facilities in either the US or Japan makes it difficult to know for sure.

UPDATE 1/8/17 - Discovered that Lotte was in Arizona in 1970 as well based on an article in the Chicago Tribune on 3/23/1970
UPDATE 4/11/18 - Buffaloes visited Dodgertown in the fall of 2002 and 2003
UPDATE 2/2/20 - Added Fighters in Scottsdale for 2018-19

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