Sunday, October 1, 2017

2017 Kochi Fighting Dogs Team Set

I have a soft spot for the Shikoku Island League - they were the first independent minor league in Japan and they sent All Star teams to play in the Cam-Am league in 2015 and 2016.  That soft spot hasn't led me to go out of my way to get cards from the league, however, so I only had a few cards - a small handful of cards I picked up on Ebay and three SCM insert cards BBM did for the league,

Last January, however, Manny Ramirez signed with the Kochi Fighting Dogs and I decided I needed to see about any cards he might have this year - I'm a Red Sox fan and have many fond memories of Manny despite the somewhat acrimonious way he ended up leaving the team.  I had figured out last June that Kochi was doing a team set and despite the price (3000 yen or almost $30!) I asked Ryan to pick up a set for me which he included in the box I got yesterday.  (Ryan got a partial set that included a Ramirez card himself at a Kochi game he went to in August.)

The set contains 30 cards and actually has two cards of Ramirez.  It's very similar to a team set that you would see for a minor league team here in the States - I'm half surprised that there isn't a "Multi-Ad" logo on the front of the cards.  (Does Multi-Ad still make minor league cards?  I stopped buying minor league teams in 2001.)

Here are the two Manny Ramirez cards from the set:


There are three other players from North America in the set - Lars Anderson, Richard Ruff and Zach Colby.  Anderson also played in the majors with the Red Sox although it was after Ramirez had left the team.  He also played in the Indians, White Sox, Cubs and Dodgers organizations.  There's a set of six articles/blog entries on Fangraphs covering his time with Kochi that are well worth a read.  Ruff was a Mets farmhand for a couple years and spent a few years in indy ball in the States before coming to Japan.  Colby's kind of an interesting case - his professional baseball experience was only 22 games with Joliet of the Frontier League before he came to the Shikoku Island League last year (I think).  He was with the Ehime Mandarin Pirates for the first two months of last season and was on the All Star team that played in the Can-Am league last summer (I saw him start an argument with an umpire that kicked off some kind of wild bench clearing fracas at the Sussex County Miners' ballpark last June).  After the All Stars finished their schedule, he stayed behind in North America and joined the Trois-Rivieres Aigles of the Can-Am League for about two weeks.  I don't know if he returned to Japan after that.



There's a couple other players with interesting backgrounds in the team set.  Masato Fukae was the only player I found who had any NPB experience - he was a fifth round pick of the Orix Buffaloes in the 2010 draft.  He was drafted from the Akashi Red Soldiers of the Kansai Independent League, a team I believe folded after the 2010 season.  He spent four years with Orix, getting into about 81 games at the ichi-gun level.  After he was released by Orix in 2014, he came to the US and spent some time in 2015 with Lancaster of the Atlantic League and 2016 with Gary of the American Association.  He returned to Japan in the middle of last season and joined Kochi.  He also played for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League during the 2015-16 season.

There are two Korean players in the team set - Sang-Gu Han and Kyung-Sam Woo.  According to the roster on Kochi's Japanese Wikipedia page both players came from the Kia Tigers but I think they only ever played for Kia's farm team.  I haven't seen any evidence they played at the KBO's top level but it's very possible that I missed it due to the way the names were transliterated.


There are two Taiwanese pitchers on the team who both have experience with MLB organizations.  Yi-Hsiang Lin spent 2012-16 in the Baltimore Orioles organization (including two years with Aberdeen which is only about five miles from my house) while Kuo-Hua Lo played in the Minnesota Twins organization from 2012 until midway through last season.  He finished last season with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.


I think that either Kochi or  Shikoku Island League itself has been active in promoting baseball in West Africa.  This effort has result in the first professional baseball player from Burkina Faso - Sanfo Lassina:

Kochi's manager is Meikyukai member Norihiro Komada, who played for the Yomiuri Giants and Yokohama Baystars between 1983 and 2000.

The coaches for the team also have NPB experience.  Batting coach Yoshihiro Yamagoshi (whose name is missed Yamakoshi at Baseball-Reference) played for Hankyu/Orix from 1987-94.  Pitching coach Toyohiko Yoshida played for the Hawks, Tigers, Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Eagles in a 20 year career between 1988 and 2007.

The Shikoku Island League finished up their schedule today with the Tokushima Indigo Socks defeating the Kagawa Olive Guyners in the league's championship.  Tokushima will be taking on the champion of the BC League in the "Grand Championship" of the Japanese independent leagues.  Manny Ramirez only played in 23 games with Kochi, hitting .413 with 3 home runs and 23 RBIs (I think).  It will be interesting to see if he returns to Japan next season.

1 comment:

Jason Presley said...

Sadly, no more Multi-Ad. That part of the company was sold to another company and the released sets for a season as "Brandt", and then nothing. Now it's just Choice, Grandstand and the occasional local team issue.