There are currently two independent minor leagues operating in Japan - the Shikoku Island League and Baseball Challenge (BC) League. There are known baseball cards for the Shikoku Island League teams (some of which I have - some SCM cards, some random cards from 2006 and a 2017 team set for the Kochi Fighting Dogs featuring Manny Ramirez) but I had never seen any cards for any of the BC League teams. Jason Presley, who is much better at internet searches than I am, has said that other than a couple oversized cards of Tuffy Rhodes when he was with Toyama he's never seen any cards for any BC League teams. But I still occasionally do searches through Yahoo! Japan Auctions for both the league and the individual teams. Usually I turn up nothing but NPB and US minor league cards of either players who have joined teams in the league or are managing teams. But imagine my surprise a few months back when this turned up:
Naoyuki "Gyaos" Naito was manager of the Niigata Albirex Baseball Club (it's important to add the last two words because there are Niigata Albirex football and basketball teams as well) in 2013-14. He had an 11 year NPB career as a pitcher for the Swallows (1988-94), Marines (1995-96) and Dragons (1996-97). His nickname comes from a monster in the Gamera movies.
So what's the story with this card? Did BBM do a set for the BC League in 2014 that I somehow missed? Seems unlikely and there's no card number on the card so there's no implication that there's any other cards.
I found a clue on the card. It might be a little hard to tell in the scan but the card has an authentication embossing on the lower right side on the front that says "BBM-Event Authentic Autograph". So besides telling us that that's a real autograph from Naito on the card, it also says that it's from some BBM-Event. I went spelunking through BBM's on-line list of events and found this event from September 13, 2014. It was at Ohara Sports Park, one of the home stadiums that the Albirex uses, at the same time that they were playing the Shinano Grandserows. I'm not quite sure how this worked but I think if you bought 1000 yen worth of BBM cards at the event you would "receive 1 copy of Limited Promotional Card with direct autograph by Director Gaio Naito" (according to the Google translation of the text). So it looks like this was a one off promotional giveaway by BBM. I don't know if there are other similar cards out there but it's probably worth a look.
I received this card yesterday in the mail with a whole lot of other stuff from Ryan. They will be keeping me busy for a while although I'll be posting about what I got from him as I go. I've been posting like a madman the last couple days just trying to get some somewhat time sensitive stuff done before his package showed up. I almost succeeded!
And I want to as usual thank Ryan for picking up stuff for me. I think at least a third of my collection in the past few years has passed through his hands at some point.