Thursday, February 27, 2020

2020 BBM Rookie Edition

Rookie Edition, BBM's annual set for all the players taken in the previous fall's NPB draft, was released about two weeks ago.  My copy of the set arrived at my house today - actually the post office attempted to deliver it on Tuesday but I was out of town for a few days on business.

I've remarked a number of times in the past that I've run out of interesting things to say about this set (assuming I had anything interesting to say about it in the first place).  This set is pretty much the same from year to year with only the players changing.  Which isn't to say it's bad set - it's not.  It's just the same thing every year.

The 2020 edition of the set has 120 cards in its base set.  There are 107 cards for the 2019 draftees/2020 rookie class, a single "draft pick list" card and 12 "Early Days" cards.

The 107 player cards include the players taken in both the regular and ikusei drafts last October.  Probably the biggest names (so far) in the set are Roki Sasaki of the Marines and Keito Mori of the Baystars.  Normally I'd say that this is the first baseball card for everyone in the set but there's seventeen eighteen exceptions this time around - there's four five players who were in Panini's Japanese Collegiate All Star inserts from the USA Baseball Stars & Stripes set from last spring plus all six of the Swallows picks and all seven of the Dragons picks were featured on Epoch One cards last December.  For the fifth year in a row the draft picks are framed in a geometric figure.  This year it's octagons (or at least the lower half of an octagon) after circles (2016), triangles (2017), pentagons (2018) and circles again (2019).

As usual the photos from the cards were taken at the press conferences that the teams hold in December to introduce the new draft picks so as usual they're a bunch of boring shots of players faking throws, swinging a bat or just making a "guts" pose.  I will say that there's a couple photos of catchers doing catcher-ish things (or at least squatting or holding a catcher's glove) that I don't remember seeing before.  There's a "secret" version of each team's first round pick - these are short printed photo variants that feature a different boring picture of the player.  I will make my annual comment that these cards would be much more interesting if they showed the players in their high school/college/corporate league/indy league uniforms.

Here's a bunch of examples:






The "draft pick list" card is simply a list of all the draft picks.  It theoretically could be a checklist for the set except that it doesn't have the card numbers for the players or list the "Early Days" subset.  I'm pretty much of the opinion that this card only exists to make the number of cards in the set divisible by three.  Last year's set also had 107 draft picks and so included a similar card to make the total card count divisible by three.  The set two years ago had 114 draft picks which is already divisible by three so there was no "draft pick list" card.  The 2016 edition has 115 draft picks and so had TWO "draft pick list" cards - one for each league - to get to a number divisible by three.  The next question would be why does BBM want the number of cards divisible by three - all I can think of is that they think it would look better in 9-pocket sheets that way.

The "Early Days" subset features an active player from each of the 12 NPB teams.  There's what looks like a current picture of the player in the foreground along with a photo of him from his rookie player press conference in the background.  BBM has pretty much included a subset featuring active and/or OB players in every rendition of Rookie Edition - I think it's an excuse to put autograph cards of those players in the set.  This is the fourth year for the "Early Days" subset - the big names in it this time around include Hayato Sakamoto, Seiya Suzuki, Norichika Aoki and Nobuhiro Matsuda.  Here's Sakamoto's card:

I complain and make fun of this set every year but I do feel that it's an essential set.  It's the first card of almost every player.  I just wish BBM did a better job with it.

As always, you can take a look at all the cards over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Card Of The Week February 23

Here's a bromide card I picked up a few months back.  It shows Satoru Sugiyama (#33) and Michio Nishizawa (#15) of the Chunichi Dragons.  I'm not positive but I think it might be from the JBR 90a set from 1950 - Engel lists a card of the two of them from that set.  The only thing that makes me hesitate is the size of the card - it's about 2 inches by 2 1/2 inches while Engel lists the JBR 90a cards as being 2 1/8 inches by 2 1/2 inches.  I know the photo is from 1950 by the uniform (the Dragons wore this in 1950 and 1951) and Sugiyama's uniform number (he wore #33 in 1950 but #5 in 1951).

UPDATE - Upon further review...I think the card is from the JBR 90b set that Engel added in the latest version (2.1) of the Vintage Price Guide.  He doesn't list it but the size is right and he notes that the league logo is smaller on these than the JBR 90a cards and is alway located in a bottom corner.

Fighters Playing Cards

I picked up an odd item a couple weeks ago.  It's a team set for the Nippon-Ham Fighters that doubles as a deck of cards.  The set was issued in 2015 and looks like it was published by the team itself.

I've seen similar sets in the past but this is a really nice little set.  It has a good selection of photos and the cards themselves use a borderless design which I almost always like.  The set contains 54 cards (the standard 52 card deck plus two Jokers) and has individual cards for 51 players.  There's also a card showing the 2014 draft class with manager Hideki Kuriyama in front of the Sapporo clock tower and cards for mascots Polly Polaris and B*B. 

The set includes cards of all the biggest names on the Fighters that season including Shohei Ohtani, Sho Nakata, Kensuke Kondoh, Daikan Yoh, Kensuke Tanaka, Hirotoshi Masui and Shota Ohno.  Since the Fighters had 67-ish players on their 70 man roster that year there's around 16 players who didn't have a card but I don't think anyone significant got left out.  There's only two gaijin players included (Brandon Laird and Luis Mendoza) and none of the players from the 2014 draft class have individual cards (so no rookie card of Kohei Arihara).  Kuriyama doesn't have his own card either but he's on the back of every card:

Here's a bunch of example cards:

It's hard to tell from my scans but the cards have rounded corners (like you'd expect from playing cards).  The Kenshi Sugiya card is the only one with a horizontal photo.

One odd thing about the photo selection - the cards of Satoshi Nakajima and Hiroshi Kisanuki show them at their retirement games at the end of the 2015 season.  So the set must have been issued late in 2015.  The back of the box says "Not For Sale" so I wonder if this was some sort of fan club giveaway, maybe at the team's fan festival that is usually held in November.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Flagships And Team Sets

I'd been putting off writing about any new stuff for a little bit since there had only been news about two sets but then suddenly this week information about five more sets came out.  So without further ado...

- Calbee's Series One set is scheduled for release on March 16th (although it will likely be available a few days before that).  It looks pretty similar to the other recent Calbee issues.  The base set looks to be 88 cards - 72 "regular" player cards (6 per team), 12 subset cards split between three different themes - two cards for last year's league champions (the Lions and the Giants), one card for the Nippon Series champions (the Hawks - remember that the league champion is the team that finishes first, not the team that wins the Climax Series and represents the league in the Nippon Series) and nine cards for "Record Achievement" - and four checklist cards.  The one change I see is that the ubiquitous "Star" insert set is gone this year - instead there's a 20 card "Title Holder" insert set along with a 9 card "Legend" insert set for players who retired last year.  The checklist is available here.

- BBM flagship set 1st Version will be out in early April.  At first glance it looks like BBM's not really changing much - the numbers for the set look pretty much like they have for the past six years as the base set will contain 372 cards - 324 player cards (27 per team), 12 team checklist cards and 36 "Cross Blossoms" subset cards - this last is a cross set subset that will be completed in 2nd Version in August.  There's the usual assortment of signature parallels for 108 of the player cards (9 per team) plus parallel versions of the rookie cards.  12 cards have "secret" versions - short printed photo variations and 12 other cards have "ultra secret" version - even shorter printed photo variations. There are four 12 card insert sets - "Japonism", "New Age Star", "3D Cross Blossom" and something called "Cross Foil Signing".  There is also the usual assortment of autograph cards plus memorabilia cards for Rei Takahashi and Munetaka Murakami (last year's Rookie Of The Years).  I will say that the example cards on BBM's website look really good.

- The first two of BBM's "comprehensive" team sets have been announced.  Both the Buffaloes and Swallows sets will be out in early April.  As usual the base sets have 81 cards.  In the Buffaloes case that breaks down to 68 cards for the manager and players plus four subsets that make up the other 13 cards (although the website only lists three).  The Swallows web page doesn't break down the 81 base set cards at all.  Both sets have several insert sets - the Buffaloes have five sets for a total of 30 cards including 12 "Phantom" cards while the Swallows have three sets for a total of 36 cards including 18 "Phantom" cards.  Both sets will have a myriad of autographed cards available.

- While BBM is doing pretty much the same thing they've been doing the past few years, Epoch is changing things a little with their "Rookies & Stars" team sets, at least based on what I'm seeing with their first two offerings for 2020.  In the past two years Epoch's "Rookies & Stars" team sets have been "comprehensive" ones - which means they've featured every player on the team's 70 man roster plus the manager and possibly a coach or two.  The base sets have therefore been in the neighborhood of 70 cards in size.  The two sets Epoch's announced so far this year, the Lions and the Swallows, only have 36 cards in their base set so they are no longer "comprehensive".  I'm a little disappointed by this as I was hoping the competition would force BBM to improve their product some.  Epoch appears to be doing the same things for both sets so each card of the base set has a parallel version and there's either four or eleven insert sets (depending on how you want to count them) associated with each set - "Uniform Number" (Silver, Gold or Team Color versions), "Metal Power" (Silver, Gold, Hologram), "Time To Shine Hologram" (versions A, B and C) and "Gem" (regular and Black).  A bunch of these are serially numbered.  There's also a boatload of possible autograph cards.  The Lions set will be released on April 18th and the Swallows set comes out a week later on the 25th.

- Epoch celebrated the 85th Anniversary of the Giants last fall with an ultra high end set called something like "The Legendary Players Giants 85th Anniversary" 2020 marks the 85th Anniversary of the founding of the Hanshin Tigers and Epoch is issuing a similar set called "The Legendary Players Tigers 85th Anniversary".  This is another ultra high end set so each box retails for 16,500 yen (around $148) and contains six cards - two of which are guaranteed to be autographed.  The base set has 33 cards which feature retired Tigers players including Koichi Tabuchi, Yutaka Enatsu and Randy Bass.  There are a bunch of autograph cards available (obviously) including some booklet ones with multiple autographs or a combination of an autograph and a uniform patch.  The set will be released on March 21st.

Friday, February 21, 2020

1988 Japanese Olympic Baseball Team

Baseball was still a demonstration sport for the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea.  As in 1984 there were eight countries participating and also as in 1984 Cuba was not one of them.  Cuba had joined North Korea in boycotting the games and was replaced by Australia.  The Netherlands and Puerto Rico joined Australia in participating in the tournament for the first time, joining 1984 teams Japan, the US, Canada, South Korea and Taiwan.  Like the previous tournament the eight teams were split into two divisions - Blue (Japan, Netherlands, Taiwan and Puerto Rico) and White (USA, Australia, Canada and South Korea).  All the games were played in Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul (the current home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears of the KBO).

The Olympics were still not allowing professional players so again Japan's 20 man roster was made up of a mix of college and corporate league players although the number of corporate league players grew to 17 from 13 in 1984.  The head coach was Yoshinobu Suzuki, coach of the Toshiba corporate league team (and one of the coaches of the 1984 squad).  The coaches were Katsuji Kawashima from Yamaha and Masatake Yamanake of Sumitomo Metal.  Here's the player roster:

Number Position Player Birthdate Team
20 Catcher Furuta, Atsuya 8/6/1965 Toyota
18 Pitcher Ishii, Takehiro 10/25/1964 Prince Hotel
2 Infielder Katsuragi, Hiroki 9/21/1963 Toshiba
15 Pitcher Kikuchi, Satoshi ? Toshiba
21 Outfielder Maeda, Makoto ? Toshiba
25 Outfielder Matsumoto, Yasushi 7/3/1960 Mitsubishi Nagoya
8 Outfielder Nakajima, Terushi 7/27/1962 Prince Hotel
1 Infielder Nishi, Masafumi 11/25/1960 Osaka Gas
19 Pitcher Nomo, Hideo 8/31/1968 Nippon Steel Sakai
6 Infielder Nomura, Kenjiro 9/19/1966 Komazawa University
9 Infielder Ogawa, Hirofumi 3/6/1967 Prince Hotel
22 Catcher Ohtake, Atsuyoshi 5/12/1958 Nippon Steel Hirohata
28 Infielder Omori, Takeshi 8/4/1967 Keio University
11 Pitcher Shiozaki, Tetsuya 11/26/1968 Matsushita Electric
14 Pitcher Suzuki, Tetsu 1/22/1964 Kumagai Gumi
27 Outfielder Tomashino, Kenji 10/11/1966 Chuo University
10 Infielder Tsutsui, Daisuke 1/22/1958 Sumitomo Metal
12 Pitcher Watanabe, Tomio 6/23/1967 NTT Shikoku
3 Infielder Yonezaki, Kunji 3/19/1968 Nippon Life
16 Pitcher Yoshida, Shuji 11/29/1966 Hokkaido Takushoku Bank

The 1988 games used the same tournament format that the 1984 games used.  Each team would play the other three teams in its division in the first round.  Following this round, the first place team of each division would play the second place team of the other division in the semi-final round.  The winners of the two semi-final games would play in the final game (the gold medal game although since it was a demonstration sport no "official" medals were actually awarded) while the losers would play in the "third place" (bronze medal) game.

Japan went undefeated in the first round, beating Puerto Rico 7-1, Taiwan 4-3 (in 12 innings) and the Netherlands 6-1.  They defeated South Korea 3-1 in the semi-finals to move to the final game - a rematch against 1984 silver medal finalist Team USA.

Team USA again was made up solely of collegiate players.  The roster included a number of future major leaguers including Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez, Jim Abbott, Andy Benes, Charles Nagy, Mickey Morandini, Ben McDonald, Scott Servais and Bret Barberie.  Stanford coach Mark Marquess was the coach of the team.  The US had gone 2-1 in the first round, defeating South Korea 5-3 and Australia 12-2 but losing to Canada 8-7, before beating Puerto Rico 7-2 in their semi-final matchup.  In the final game, Japan took an early lead with a single run in the bottom of the second but Team USA scored three runs in the top of the fourth (including a couple on a two run home run from Martinez) and added another in the top of the fifth to lead 4-1.  Japan cut the score to 4-3 with two in the bottom of the sixth but Martinez hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to push the final margin to 5-3.  Abbott pitched a complete game for the victory.

13 of the 20 players on the team went on to play professionally in NPB.  Two of the players, Atsuya Furuta and Hideo Nomo, are in both the Japanese Hall Of Fame and the Meikyukai (Golden Players Club) while a third, Kenjiro Nomura, is only in the Meikyukai.  Here's a card and a write up on each of those 13 players:

2000 BBM Diamond Heroes "Golden Battery" #GB2
It was a bit of a fluke that Atsuya Furuta was on the Olympic team that year.  He had graduated from Ritsumeikan University in 1987 and was almost taken by the Nippon-Ham Fighters in that fall's draft but they ultimately decided against drafting him due to concerns about his eyesight.  So instead he spent two years with Toyota's corporate league team before the Swallows drafted him in the second round of the 1989 draft.  New Swallows manager Katsuya Nomura installed him as Yakult's starting catcher in 1990 and the rest was history.  Furuta was the regular catcher for the Swallows until he was named player-manager for the 2006 season.  In the meantime, he won two Central League MVP awards (1993 & 1997), made nine Best 9 teams (1991-1993, 1995, 1997, 1999-2001, 2004), won ten Golden Gloves (1990-1993, 1995, 1997, 1999-2001, 2004) and made the All Star team every year of his career (1990-06 plus he was a coach in 2007, his final year as Swallows player-manager).  He was part of four Nippon Series champions (1993, 1995, 1997 & 2001) and was Series MVP twice (1997 & 2001).  He won the batting crown in 1991, becoming just the second catcher to ever do so (and first to do it in the Central League) after Nomura.  He got his 2000th hit in 2005, again only the second catcher to do so after Nomura.  He retired as both player and manager after the 2007 season and was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2015.

1992 BBM Nippon Series #S53
Like Furuta, Takehiro Ishii spent two years in the corporate leagues after graduating from college.  In his case his college was Hosei University (graduating in 1986) and the corporate league team was Prince Hotel.  He was the Lions 2nd round pick in the 1988 draft and made the ichi-gun team's bullpen out of training camp his first season.  He moved into the starting rotation the following year and put together his best season in 1992, when he went 15-3 with a 1.94 ERA, winning both the Sawamura Award and the Pacific League MVP along with making the Best 9 team and winning the Shoriki Award.  He topped off the year by throwing two complete game victories in the Nippon Series, winning Game Three 6-1 and Game Seven 2-1 in ten innings.  He won the Series MVP award.  He ultimately played in five Series with the Lions (1991-94 & 1997 - he was on the roster for the 1990 Series but did not get into a game when the Lions only used six pitchers to sweep the Giants).  He was selected for the All Star game three times (1990, 1992 and 1995) although he declined to play in 1995.  He was traded to the Fighters following the 1997 along with Hiroshi Narahara for Yukihiro Nishizaki.  The Fighters released him after 1999 and he joined the Taipei Gida of the short-lived Taiwan Major League (TML) as a player-coach.  He went 16-5 with a 1.74 ERA in 2000 which earned him the league's MVP award.  He retired after 2001 and became the team's manager for the 2002 season.  The league merged with the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) after that and he moved on to Korea, becoming the pitching coach for the Lotte Giants in 2003.  He returned to the Lions as a coach in 2004 and worked for them in a number of capacities ever since.

1993 Tomy #161
Terushi Nakajima was a teammate of Ishii's on the Prince Hotel corporate league team.  He had been a pitcher in high school and was a potential prospect for the 1980 draft but since his father had passed away the previous year his mother urged him to join the corporate league team instead to have a more stable path to professional baseball.  He ultimately spent eight years with the team.  He developed circulatory issues in his arm and converted to the outfield in 1984.  The 26 year old was the oldest player on the Olympic team roster who went on to play in NPB.  He was the first round pick of the Fighters in 1988 (he was also selected by the Hawks but Nippon-Ham won the lottery for him) and made the Fighter's Opening Day lineup in 1989.  He hit a 3 run sayonara home run to win that Opening Day (ruining the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks' inaugural game in the process) - he was only the second rookie to hit an Opening Day walk off shot (Yoshio Anabuki was the first in 1956).  Like Ishii, his best season was probably 1992 when he hit .290 with 13 home runs and made the All Star team.  After a couple poor seasons in 1994 and 1995 he was picked up by the Buffaloes on waivers.  He only hit .227 in 42 games with the ichi-gun team in 1996 and spent all of 1997 and 1998 with the farm team before retiring.  He was a coach for Kintetsu in 1999 and then spent the next nine years as a scout, first for the Buffaloes and then for the Fighters.  He returned to the coaching ranks in 2008 with a two year stint with the Fighters.  He joined the coaching staff of the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the CPBL in 2011 and ended up becoming the manager of the team when Lu Wen-sheng resigned due to a betting scandal.  He stepped down from that position in the middle of the 2013 season.  He became a coach for the Tokushima Indigo Socks of the independent Shikoku Island League in 2014 and became their manager for the next two seasons.  In addition he managed the All Star team that the league sent to play in the Can-Am League in North America in 2015 and 2016.  He moved on to be the hitting coach of the KBO's Hanwha Eagles in 2017 and was named the head coach of Kyoto Gakuen University starting this year.

1994 Takara Buffaloes #11
Obviously Hideo Nomo is the most well known player on this roster.  I've written a post on him recently so I'll just refer to that instead of writing something new here.  He was the first of I think four players who played in the Olympics for Japan as an amateur who later played in North America.  He retired in 2008, making him the last active player from the 1988 team.

2000 BBM #473
Kenjiro Nomura had been a star at Komazawa University.  He won four Best 9 awards and was the first player in the program's history to make the top team as a freshman.  He was the number one pick of the Carp in the 1988 draft and spent the 1989 season as a backup on the ichi-gun squad.  He was the starting shortstop for the Carp for most of the 1990's, during which time he led the league in steals three times (1990, 1991 & 1994) and hits three times (1991, 1994 & 1995), made three Best 9 teams (1991, 1995 and 1996), won a Golden Glove award in 1995 and made eight All Star teams (1990, 1991, 1993-1998).  He was the first left handed batter to achieve the "Triple Three" (.300 average, 30 home runs, 30 steals) in 1995.  Like Furuta, he got his 2000th career hit in 2005.  He retired after that season and was a baseball commentator for a couple years.  He managed the Carp from 2010 to 2014, finishing third and making the Climax Series in 2013 and 2014. 

1990 Lotte #32
Hirofumi Ogawa was the third Olympic team member from the Prince Hotel corporate league team.  He spent four years with the team after graduating from high school before he was taken in the second round of the 1988 draft by the Orix Braves.  Like Nomura with the Carp, Ogawa was the starting shortstop for Orix for most of the 1990's although he was nowhere near the star that Nomura was.  He made the 1991 Best 9 team, was selected to three All Star teams (1991, 1992 & 1994) and played in two Nippon Series (1995 & 1996).  He had an odd achievement of homering from every slot in the lineup, only the fifth batter in NPB history to do so.  He was part of a six player trade after the 2000 season - Orix sent him, Yu Sugimoto and Kazuyuki Maeda to the Yokohama Baystars in exchange for Kiyoshi Arai, Hisashi Tokano and Tatsuya Shindoh.  He retired after the 2004 season (a year spent entirely with the Shonan Searex, the Baystars' farm team in Yokosuka) and coached for both Orix and DeNA since then.

1997 BBM #291
Like Nomura, Takeshi Ohmori had been a big collegiate star.  He hit .356 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs over 88 games at Keio University, making the Tokyo Big Six Best 9 team three times and winning just the sixth ever Triple Crown in the circuit's history one season.  The Giants took him in the first round of the 1989 draft.  Despite his numbers with Keio and his impressive numbers with the Giants' farm team (he led the Eastern League in home runs three times (1992, 1993 and 1996) and RBIs twice (1992 and 1996), he was never able to make much of an impact with the ichi-gun Giants.  He only managed to get in 123 games with the top team in eight years and his average never went above .200.  He was traded to the Buffaloes midway through the 1998 season for Shinichiro Minami and Yoshihiro Seo but suffered a shoulder injury that kept him on their farm team for all of 1999.  He retired after that and has been a scout for the Giants ever since.

1991 Calbee #28
At 19 years old, Tetsuya Shiozaki was the youngest member of the 1988 Olympic baseball team.  He spent three seasons playing for Matsushita Electric before he was drafted by Seibu in the first round of the 1989 draft.  He spent his first seven seasons working out of the bullpen as a setup man and was quite good in that role, making the All Star team in 1995.   He tied an NPB rookie record by striking out eight consecutive batters in a game against Orix in 1990.  He moved into the rotation in 1997, going 12-7 with a 2.90 ERA but moved back into the bullpen in 1999 and pretty much remained there for the remainder of his career.  He pitched for the Lions in eight Nippon Series over the course of his 15 year career - 1990 (he was one of the six pitchers and had a three inning save to end the deciding Game Four), 1991, 1992, 1993 (he won an "Outstanding Player" award after appearing in 5 of the 7 games in the Series and notching 2 saves), 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2002.  He retired at the end of the 2004 season and has either worked or coached for the Lions ever since.

1996 BBM #207
The Dragons and Giants both considered drafting Tetsu Suzuki in 1987 after he graduated from Keio University but he decided to play for the Kumagai Gumi corporate league team instead.  After two seasons with them he was taken by the Lions with their second pick in the 1989 draft.  He resisted signing at first but eventually relented.  He only got into 36 games with the Lions ichi-gun squad in his first four seasons and most of those were in 1991 when he went 4-6 in 20 games.  He made 14 starts that year and had two complete games and a shutout.  He made his only Nippon Series appearance that season, throwing two innings in relief in Game Four and giving up a home run to Takashi Osanai.  He was traded to the Carp for Yukihiro Ueda after the 1993 season and worked out of their bullpen for two seasons before being sold back to Seibu.  He retired following the 1997 season and has worked for the Lions ever since, doing scouting and other activities.

1994 BBM Late Series #586
Kenji Tomashino was the only future NPB player on the roster who was not taken in the first or second round of the draft - he was the Swallow's third round pick in 1988.  His older brother Seiji played for the Lions for 15 years from 1983 to 1997.  Kenji's best season was his first - he only hit .263 but he had 32 steals - good enough for the Central League lead until Kozo Shoda of the Carp (and member of the 1984 Olympic team) stole six bases on the last day of the season to pass him.  He ended up winning the Rookie Of The Year award.  His numbers and playing time diminished after his first season (although he did appear in both the 1992 and 1993 Nippon Series).  The Swallows released him after the 1997 season and he was picked up by the Carp where he ended up backing up Shoda at second base during Shoda's final season.  He retired following the 1999 season and coached for Hiroshima for the next three years.  He's been a baseball commentator since then.

1991 Q Card
The Seibu Lions ultimately drafted four of the seven pitchers (six who went professional) on the Olympic team roster.  Tomio Watanabe was the first of the four they drafted as he was their number one pick in the 1988 draft.  Watanabe had been a star pitcher at Ino Shogyo high school, leading them to the 1985 Spring Koshien tournament championship (the first time his school had ever made the tournament).  He beat powerhouse PL Gakuen (led by Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Masumi Kuwata) in the semi-finals of that tournament.  He had spent three seasons with NTT Shikoku after graduating.  He had elbow surgery about a month before the 1988 draft and I think he was treated by Seibu's doctor.  He made the Lions' starting rotation in 1989 as soon as he recovered from the surgery and went 10-7, then 13-7 in 1990 and 11-6 in 1991.  He won nine consecutive decisions starting in 1989 and ending in 1990.  He was another one of the six Lions pitchers in the 1990 Series - he threw a complete game shutout in Game Three, again beating Kuwata.  He also made appearances in the 1991 and 1992 Series.  He made the All Star team in both 1990 and 1991 (although he didn't actually appear in any of the games in 1991) and led the Pacific League in ERA in 1991.  He missed time in 1992 and 1993 with elbow and back issues.  After the 1993 season he was part of a blockbuster trade when the Lions sent him, Koji Akiyama and Tomoyuki Uchikawa to the Hawks for Makoto Sasaki, Katsuyoshi Murata and Takehiro Hashimoto.  He spent four injury-plagued years in Fukuoka before he was sold back to the Lions for the 1998 season.  After spending all of that year with the farm team he retired.  He's been a scout for Seibu ever since.

1990 Takara #8
20 year old Kunji Yonezaki was the youngest position player on the roster but he'd spent three years in the corporate leagues playing for Nippon Life after graduating from high school.  He was the number one pick of the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the 1988 draft.  A hamate bone injury in his hand caused ligament damage and prevented his NPB career from getting going.  He only appeared in 114 games with the ichi-gun Buffaloes in his five seasons with them, the bulk of those (70 games) coming in 1990.  He did make one appearance in the 1989 Nippon Series.  He was traded to the Hanshin Tigers after the 1993 season for Akihiro Shimada and spent five seasons with them although the last two were only with the farm team.  He retired following the 1998 season and opened a yakitori restaurant in his home town of Toyonaka, Osaka-prefecture.  Yonezaki spent his entire baseball playing career in his native Kansai as his high school, corporate league team and first NPB team were all located in Osaka and his second and final NPB team plays in nearby Nishinomiya.

1991 BBM #16
Shuji Yoshida spent two years with Hokkaido Takushoku Bank of the corporate leagues after graduating from high school.  He was the Giants' first pick in the 1988 draft (although he was really a consolation pick after they originally picked Kenjiro Kawasaki but lost him in the lottery to Yakult).  Surprisingly for a first round pick he only got into 45 games over the next five and half seasons with Yomiuri's ichi-gun team.  I'm not sure why he wasn't used more as he doesn't seem to have been injured and he put up respectable numbers, at least in his first two seasons.  I wonder if it had something to do with him announcing at the Giants press conference introducing the draft class of 1988 that while he was a Giant he was really a fan of his home prefecture Chunichi Dragons.  He was traded to the Hawks midway through the 1994 season for Katsuya Kishikawa.  He didn't pitch much with the top team his first couple seasons with the Hawks and when he did he didn't pitch particularly well but he eventually found his niche as a setup man in the bullpen.  He appeared in at least 49 games a season from 1997 to 2003, leading the Pacific League in holds twice during that time (1998 and 2001) and also made the All Star team twice (2000, 2002).  He pitched for the Hawks in three separate Nippon Series (1999, 2000 and 2003) to go along with his appearances in the 1989 Series with the Giants.  All those innings out of the bullpen caught up with him though and injuries kept him on the farm team for all of the 2004 and 2005 and most of the 2006 seasons.  The Hawks released him after 2006 and he was picked up by the Orix Buffaloes.  He had a decent 2007 season with Orix, appearing in 20 2/3 innings over 36 games and posting a 2.61 ERA, but was released at the end of the year.  He retired after not drawing anyone's interest after the 12 team tryout that fall.  He played for the celebrity club team Ibraki Golden Golds after retiring and later coached for the Hawks and Eagles.

I want to mention that despite never having appeared in NPB, one of the coaches and one of the other players have had baseball cards.

2011 BBM Legend Of Tokyo Big Six #105
Pitching coach Masatake Yamanka holds the record for most wins in the Tokyo Big Six with 48.  He after graduating from Hosei he spent seven years playing for Sumitomo Metal in the corporate leagues before moving into coaching positions.  He managed Sumitomo Metal from 1981 to 1984 and was head coach of Hosei from 1994 to 2002.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2016.

2017 BBM Infinity #044
Atsuyoshi Otake was a star at Waseda University before playing for Nippon Steel Hirohata.  He later managed the team (now renamed Nippon Steel Kimitsu) from 1994 to 2000.  He was also the head coach at Waseda from 2005 to 2010 and so appears on the back of the Waseda team cards in BBM's Tokyo Big Six sets from 2008 to 2010.

2010 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #24

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Card Of The Week February 16

The Mookie Betts trade from the Red Sox to the Dodgers finally was completed last week.  As a Red Sox fan I'm not particularly happy about it.  The only good thing about the deal from my point of view is that Kenta Maeda went from the Dodgers to the Twins.  Since I'm not a Dodgers fan at all (one of my teams after the Red Sox is the San Francisco Giants) I always wanted to see Maeda do well but not TOO well.  I can root for him unreservedly now.

Here's a card for Maeda from the 2012 BBM Rising Carp set (#04):

RIP Tony Fernandez

Longtime Blue Jays infielder Tony Fernandez has passed away from kidney disease at age 57.  Besides Toronto, Fernandez also played for the Padres, Mets, Reds, Yankees, Indians and Brewers.  He also spent the 2000 season in Japan, playing third base for the Seibu Lions.  He did well in his one season in Tokorozawa, hitting .327 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs in 103 games.  He returned to North America for the 2001 season, splitting time between the Brewers and Blue Jays before retiring at the end of the season.

There were an awful lot of cards of Fernandez issued in Japan in 2000.  He appeared in the "flagship" BBM set as well as the high-end Diamond Heroes set.  He had both a "regular" Calbee card and a "New Face" subset card.  He appeared in both of Upper Deck's Japanese sets that year - Ovation and Victory.  He also appeared in the Epoch Pro-Baseball Stickers set, two of Future-Bee's Power League sets and he had two cards in Konami's Field Of Nine set (the Future-Bee and Konami sets were collectible card game sets). 

I only have four of the eleven cards I listed:

2000 BBM #298

2000 BBM Diamond Heroes #32

2000 Upper Deck Ovation #39

2000 Upper Deck Victory #8

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Rafael Dolis of the Toronto Blue Jays

Rafael Dolis is returning to North America after spending four seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Hanshin Tigers.  He signed a one year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Dolis had spent 10 years in organized ball from 2006 to 2015 before coming to Japan.  Most of that time was in the Cubs organization, for whom he made 40 appearances at the major league level between 2011 and 2013.  He spent 2014 and 2015 in Triple-A in the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers organizations respectively before signing with Hanshin in January of 2016. 

Marcus Mateo, another former Cubs farmhand originally from the Dominican Republic, also joined the Tigers in 2016 and earned the closer spot out of training camp while Dolis was put in a set up role.  Mateo developed an injury in mid-May and was sent to the farm team while Dolis was promoted to closer.  He earned 8 saves before developing a elbow issue that ended his season at the end of July.  He resigned with Hanshin in the middle of training camp in 2017 and ended up beating Mateo out for the closer role.  Ultimately he notched 37 saves 2017, most in the Central League.  He was the closer again in 2018 and saved 32 games.  He started 2019 as the closer but lost the role in mid-season to Kyuji Fujikawa (yet another former Cub pitcher although he's not from the Dominican Republic) and finished the season as a set up guy.

Dolis appears in BBM's 1st Version sets in 2016, 2018 and 2019 (he signed too late to be in the 2017 set), the 2nd Version sets from 2016-19 and the 2017 Fusion set.  He made Epoch's NPB set in both 2018 and 2019 (the only two years so far they've done that set) but he only appeared in one Calbee set - 2018.  He makes appearances in the comprehensive team sets for the Tigers from both BBM (2016-19) and Epoch (sets were only done in 2018-19).  He was also in the 2017 Epoch Tigers team set.  Here's a card of him from each year he was in Japan:

2016 BBM 1st Version #227

2017 BBM Fusion #122

2018 Calbee #120

2019 Epoch NPB #411

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Katsuhiro Nagakawa

Long time Carp relief pitcher Katsuhiro Nagakawa announced his retirement back in early September.  Nagakawa is from Miyoshi in Hiroshima prefecture and played on the same youth baseball and basketball teams as his future Carp teammate Eishin Soyogi.  He was signed by the Carp in the "free acquisition frame" of the 2002 draft after he graduated from Asia University.

Nagakawa earned a spot in the bullpen of the ichi-gun Carp in his first training camp in 2003 and became the closer when Yasuhiro Oyamada (who had saved 30 games in 2002) was injured to start the season.  He ended up earning 25 saves that year and made the All Star team.  Injuries and ineffectiveness cost him the closer role over the next two seasons but he got it back in 2006.  2006 started off a four year stretch that saw him save at least 27 games each year - 27 in 2006, 31 in 2007, 38 in 2008 and 36 in 2009.  He again made the All Star team in 2006 and 2009.  He notched career save 139 in 2009 which moved him past Yutaka Ohno for most saves in Carp history, a record he extended to 163 by the end of that season.  Injuries, however, would limit him to only getting three more saves over the next ten seasons. 

He only got into 29 games with the top team in 2010-12 (actually he spent all of 2012 on the farm) and although he bounced back with 107 appearances in 2013-15, his days of being the closer were over.  2016 saw him only get into 11 games and a knee injury forced him to again spend an entire season at ni-gun in 2017.  Although he got into 22 games in 2018 he ended up spending all of 2019 on the farm again - his only appearance with the ichi-gun team was the one batter he faced in his retirement game on September 23rd.  He'll be one of the pitching coaches with the Carp's farm team in 2020.

As usual, his first baseball card was from a BBM Rookie Edition set - in this case it was #36 in the 2003 set.  His other BBM rookie cards include #152 in 1st Version, #563 in 2nd Version and #98 in Touch The Game.  His first Calbee card was #117 in the 2003 set.  Here's some of his cards:

2003 BBM Rookie Edition #36

2003 BBM 1st Version #152

2003 Calbee #117

2006 BBM All Stars #A53

2009 BBM Carp 60th Anniversary #99

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #53

2014 Front Runner Trading Card Carp Season Summary #09

2015 Epoch Carp Red Helmet 40th Anniversary #08

2019 BBM Carp #C08