Thursday, March 2, 2023

2021 JABA Player Cards

JABA, which I think stands for the Japanese Amateur Baseball Association, is the organization that runs the corporate (also known as "industrial") baseball leagues in Japan (although to be completely honest, I don't know how the "leagues" are actually organized).  The teams in these leagues are run by corporations and the players are "officially" amateurs who just happen to work for that particular company.  In reality, of course, while the players are employees of the company, their job is to play baseball.  It is very common for a player coming out of high school or college to spend a couple years playing in the corporate leagues before becoming an "official" professional by getting drafted by an NPB team.  Hideo Nomo is probably the most famous former corporate league player but there's literally hundreds of others.

If you'd asked me a while back if there were any baseball cards for the corporate leagues, I would have said no.  But a couple things happened to change that.  First of all, Deanna Rubin gave me a pack of cards for the Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems team almost two years ago.  Then in late 2021, JABA issued a 90 card set of corporate league players from various teams.  The cards were sold in packs of five cards for 550 yen each.  I had asked Ryan to pick up a couple packs for me and he included them in the package I got from him last week. 

The cards are pretty attractive.  They are standard sized but have rounded corners.  The player's name is on the front in both Japanese and English along with his uniform number but not his team.  The backs feature a monochrome head shot of the player along with some biographical data (and his team).  I don't know if every pack is like this but the five cards I got in each pack were sequentially numbered - cards 11-15 in one pack and 78-82 in the other.  Here are the cards in the first pack:

Here are the five cards from the other pack:

And here's what the back of the cards looks like - this is Takuya Sato's card:

Two of these players - Kosaku KawaseKei Kawano and Shota Suekane - play for Osaka Gas.  Coincidentally these two players were drafted by the Carp in the fifth round in consecutive drafts - Suekane in 2021 and Kawase Kawano in 2022.  These are the only players from these ten cards that have moved on to NPB.  I'd love to see a checklist for the set and find out if there are any others.  JABA had offered complete sets for 10,000 yen when the 2021 Intercity Tournament was going on but that price seems a bit steep considering most of these players will never join NPB.

JABA issued an 88 card set for 2022.  I'll have to ask Ryan to get me a couple packs of that set too.

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