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Japanese Baseball (NPB): News, Notes, and Where to Watch

 Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network  |    Jul 9th, 2024 2:58pm EDT

As the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season progresses, here is a look at the top news and notes from the past week in Japan’s highest level of professional baseball.  

Former MLB Journeyman Joins BayStars  

On Thursday, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars announced that first baseman and designated hitter Mike Ford had signed a contract with the club. Ford elected free agency from his contract with the Cincinnati Reds on May 31 after the team decided to designate him for assignment two days prior.  

Ford, 32, made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees in 2019 and hit 12 home runs with a 137 OPS+ in 50 games during his rookie season. He played for four organizations in 2022, totaling 44 games with the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Angels.  

The left-handed swinger found success with Seattle in 2023, smashing a career-high 16 home runs in only 83 games, but has never hit for average and ranks in the bottom of MLB in sprint speed. Ford joins his former Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre teammate Tyler Austin in Japan, who began playing for the BayStars in 2020.  

Tigers Drawing Massive Attendance  

According to JapanBall on X, Hanshin Koshien Stadium, home of the defending NPB champion Hanshin Tigers, has an average of 41,808 fans per game this season.  

According to ESPN, only the Los Angeles Dodgers average more fans per game than Hanshin, with 47,769 spectators per game. The Tigers even draw more fans per game than Yankee Stadium (41,433), one of the most attractive tourist destinations for visitors of The Bronx.  

Hanshin Koshien Stadium has a capacity of 47,400, and judging by the attendance during regular-season games, the Tigers may have no trouble filling every seat in the stadium come the postseason.   

NPB All-Star Fan Vote Winners Announced  

The NPB All-Star Series will occur between the Pacific League and Central League on Tuesday, July 23, and Wednesday, July 24, at Es Con Field Hokkaido and Meiji Jingu Baseball Stadium. Here’s a look at the players who will represent their respective leagues, as voted by NPB fans.   

Central League All-Stars  

C – Yuudai Yamamoto (Yokohama DeNA BayStars)  

1B – Kazuma Okamoto (Yomiuri Giants)  

2B – Shugo Maki (Yokohama DeNA BayStars)  

SS – Hideki Nagaoka (Tokyo Yakult Swallows)  

3B – Munetaka Murakami (Tokyo Yakult Swallows)  

OF – Koji Chikamoto (Hanshin Tigers)  

OF – Seiya Hosokawa (Chunichi Dragons)  

OF – Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama DeNA BayStars)  

SP – Hiroto Saiki (Hanshin Tigers)  

RP – Suguru Iwazaki (Hanshin Tigers)  

RP – Raidel Martinez (Chunichi Dragons)  

Pacific League All-Stars  

C – Yua Tamiya (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

1B – Ariel Martinez (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

2B – Daigo Kamikawabata (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

3B – Yuya Gunji (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

SS – Tatsuki Mizuno (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

OF – Chusei Mannami (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

OF – Kensuke Kondoh (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)  

OF – Yuki Yanagita (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)  

DH – Takeya Nakamura (Saitama Seibu Lions)  

SP – Sachiya Yamasaki (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

RP – Ryusei Kawano (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

RP – Seigi Tanaka (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)  

This Day in Japanese Baseball History   

On July 8, 2014, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees was removed from his start against the Cleveland Guardians in the seventh inning, complaining of pain in his right elbow.  

Pain in a pitcher’s throwing arm usually indicates the need for Tommy John Surgery. Still, Yankee team doctors decided the best way to treat Tanaka in 2014 was by using platelet-rich plasma injections.   

Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January 2014, avoided surgery, and returned to the rotation in September. He was a vital Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles member for seven seasons before switching to MLB.   

NPB Standings as of Tuesday, July 9  

Central League  

  1. Hiroshima Toyo Carp (38-34–4) 
  2. Yomiuri Giants (39-35-5) 
  3. Hanshin Tigers (38-36-5) 
  4. Yokohama DeNA BayStars (39-37-1) 
  5. Chunichi Dragons (35-38-6) 
  6. Tokyo Yakult Swallows (32-42-4)

Pacific League  

  1. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (50-23-3) 
  2. Chiba Lotte Marines (40-31-6) 
  3. Orix Buffaloes (36-38-2) 
  4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (35-38-2) 
  5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (34-37-5) 
  6. Saitama Seibu Lions (24-51-1) 

You can stream all NPB games on DAZN 

Photo Credit: Mike Ford #38 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts after hitting a RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 13, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Reds 6-5. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

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Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network