By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Japan Baseball Organization Executive Committee is expected to approve the expansion of two new expansion teams in Japan’s minor leagues that will start play in 2024.
According to NHK Sports, there will be an owners meeting on Friday, September 29, regarding the teams’ approval. Nippon Professional Baseball began accepting applications for new teams to participate in the Farm League in May 2023.
The minor leagues in Nippon Professional Baseball are separated into two divisions: the Eastern League and Western League. There are currently seven teams in the Eastern League and five in the Western League. Teams in both leagues have the same names and uniforms as their Central or Pacific league parent teams.
The first organization rumored to be added to the Nippon Professional Baseball farm system is the Niigata Albirex Baseball Club. The team plays in the Route Inn BCL, formerly the Baseball Challenge League, an independent minor league. The league was founded in 2006 and began play in 2007. The Niigata Albirex Baseball Club was one of the four original teams in the league’s inaugural season and joined the Joshinetsu division in 2008 after the Route Inn BCL added two more organizations.
The second organization rumored to be added to the Nippon Professional Baseball farm system is the Hayate Group, a financial industry in Japan. The team is expected to be located in Shizuoka City, according to Archysport.com.
The Hayate Group released the following statement on their official website: “We are aiming to enter professional baseball in the spring of 2024. With a deep sense of gratitude for opening the door to small and medium-sized companies like us, we will take on new challenges. In addition, we aim to promote regional development to raise the temperature of Japanese society, saying, ‘This kind of challenge is allowed.’”
NHK Sports reports that the official team name is Hayate 223, and the hope is to play home games at Shimizu Ibara Stadium in Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka City.
NHK Sports also reported that both teams have shown a desire to play in the Eastern League, but there are already two more teams in the Eastern League than in the Western League.
Minor league players from Nippon Professional Baseball will soon play in the Miyazaki Phoenix League, a fall baseball league organized by NPB. The 20th anniversary season begins on Monday, October 9, and ends on Sunday, October 30. All 12 NPB farm league teams will participate. Admission to attend the games is free, as per the Miyazaki Phoenix League Instagram page.
The 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball regular season will conclude on Monday, October 9. The Hanshin Tigers (83-49-5) are in first place in the Central League, and the Orix Buffaloes (82-47-4) are in first place in the Pacific League. The Buffaloes are aiming to win their second straight Japan Championship Series.