The Evolution of Messenger: East-West Fusion Pitching

Original article can be found here 元の記事はこちら

Messenger has been the team's best pitcher since rejoining the team on May 29.

Messenger has been the team’s best pitcher since rejoining the team on May 29.

Hanshin pitcher Randy Messenger (33) earned his seventh win on the 26th by throwing 7 innings of 5-hit shutout ball against the DeNA Baystars at Koshien. He showed no signs of fatigue despite going on 4 days’ rest. His contributions to the team’s jump into second place, one game over .500, have not gone unnoticed, but a different sort of “evolution” in his game has also stood out.

Pitching just four short rest days after his start against the Giants (21st, Koshien), Messenger didn’t show one iota of tiredness, throwing 7 shutout innings on 97 pitches. He also held the DeNA lineup to just 5 hits and no walks, earning his seventh win of the season. Standing on the hero’s podium and asked about whether or not he felt tired, he quickly answered in Japanese, “Nai, nai, daijobu (No, no, I’m fine),” showing his toughness to the crowd. “I just want to be given the ball, and I’ll get teh job done. Just keep giving me the ball. I love summer, I’m used to the heat,” he said confidently.

Despite this, Messenger has recorded very few strikeouts these past two games. He had just two last time out, and four [yesterday]. Two seasons ago he had 183, last season 226, both of which won him the Strikeout King title, but this new and sudden “change” in the big righty’s approach has rival teams shaking in their boots. “He’s changed his game. He used to just be an overpowering pitcher, but now he learned to throw to contact and get guys out that way. It’s unbearable,” said one Central League scout.

MessengerCardBackOn the Hanshin side, one of the coaches spoke of his reliability. “Messenger came to camp prepared to work on pitching to contact. It didn’t go very well at first and caused some frustration. He went back to power pitching and got his form back, but now he’s able to use his experience from camp and it shows in the numbers. His curveball has gotten a lot better. We could call his pitching to contact (which he learned in Japan) ‘Japanese Style’ and his (original game of) power pitching ‘Western Style.’ He’s found a way to make both work well for him.”

On four days’ rest he threw a great “Japanese Style” game, but according to another team spokesman, “Messenger is able to go into games thinking, ‘Today I’m throwing to contact’ or ‘Today I’m power pitching,’ but at some point he’s going to be able to do it within a single game.” That i what we like to call “East-West Fusion Pitching.” Looks like our big righty import is clicking on all cylinders in the midst of a muddled up Central League.

Murton & Gomez Climbing to New Heights

Original Story can be found here 元の記事はこちら

Authorities reported on the 13th that the Hanshin Tigers experienced some troubles after the Kyojin Giants game on the 12th (@ Tokyo Dome). From rigjt around the end of game time, the team’s accommodations in Tokyo experienced an hour-long power failure. None of the hotel guests were injured, but elevator service was halted and the team, who wanted to rush back to Osaka, was forced to wait out the delay at the stadium. But outfielder Matt Murton (33) and infielder Mauro Gomez (30) took aggressive action.

After a 3.5-hour battle at Tokyo Dome, the unthinkable happened. After surrendering a solo blast to (Giants first baseman Shinnosuke) Abe, Seung-hwan Oh closed the game off at 5:30. During Keisuke Kanoh‘s hero interview, which he earned with the game-winning RBI, the team’s management made the announcement to all the players.

“Due to electrical failures at the hotel, the whole building is without power. The halls are pitch black and the elevator’s not in service. Please wait it out here at the stadium.”

What the…? This 3rd game of the 3-game series was a daytime affair, and the team was supposed to return to Osaka without spending another night at the hotel. More than anyone else, players with families wanted to hurry back to their homes, no doubt. Well if the elevators are out, why not use the emergency stairwell? Wait a minute. The hotel had 43 stories. And the team was on the 32nd floor. Surely no one would take the…

Murton spoke up and Gomez didn’t hesitate to follow. “Let’s just go home.” The GM Cannons have reached base safely in 18 straight games and they stayed in sync with each other here as well. According to their interpreter, the two of gave their bags to a staff member in the hotel basement, saying, “It’s hot!” as they dripped large drops of sweat and panted. They did 990 steps in about 10 minutes, still in their baseball uniforms.

“I think this is a first in history.” The hotel staff looked almost apologetic for what happened, but couldn’t hide their surprise. There are 30 stairs between floors, and since the hotel’s opening in 2000, the employees’ walking limit has been 10 flights. They said they “couldn’t imagine” doing 32 stories.

On this day, neither guy was at designated practice, although that has nothing to do with their legs being tired. The team is putting their fate in the GM Cannons as they try to win out their remaining two games, so the day off was a chance for them to restore their energy. Murton matches up best with Hiroshima’s pitchers, so far hitting .333 against them on the season. The imports’ toughness is admirable even off the baseball diamond. Alright guys, get a good calf massage and knock out the Carp! We’re begging you!

Any news is good news today…

Those of you who watched the game today probably wish you hadn’t. The Tigers got shellacked and are showing few signs of life in July. (More in the next series recap.)

I just “discovered” a Twitter account (mine is @thehanshintiger, follow me!) that reports on activity down at Naruohama, where the farm team plays and practices. Here are two tweets from today that deserve our attention. They might even lift our spirits a little!

Tsuyoshi Nishioka has resumed swinging a bat since July 7th. He has been on the disabled list with a right elbow injury. He went over his swing today at the indoor facility at Naruohama, and then worked on rehabbing afterwards. He aims to make a comeback and continues to train steadily.


Western League: Orix 8, Hanshin 2. New foreigner Perez was the only one on the team to record two hits off Yoshida, and now has an average of .368. It seems unlikely that he’ll get a promotion to the big club (due to the import limitation) but he’s busting his butt anyways.

Toritani and His Streak – CL Scouts Chime In

The original article can be read here 元の記事はこちら

Toritani was selected by his peers to play in the 2015 All-Star Game later this month.

Toritani was selected by his peers to play in the 2015 All-Star Game later this month.

Hanshin infielder Takashi Toritani (34) was the lone Tiger selected to the 2015 Mazda All-Star Game (July 17 – Tokyo Dome; July 18 – Mazda Stadium) by both fans and players alike. He was dropped to 7th in the batting order for the first time in 5 years on June 28th against DeNA (at Koshien) because of the effects of a hit-by-pitch, but manager Yutaka Wada (52) made it clear that he would continue to use the shortstop. He’s showing himself worthy of the title of Iron Man as he continues his consecutive games (and innings) streak, but other clubs “welcome” him to keep it up…

On the 29th, a day off for the players, Toritani said about being selected to the All-Star Game by his peers, “It’s an honor to be chosen by the players for the second straight year. I hope to go out there and play well and not embarrass myself or the athletes who so kindly voted for me.” After getting drilled in the back with a pitch on the 21st against Yakult, he was moved down to 7th in the order for the DeNA match on the 28th. He’s also been dealing with a nagging sore right oblique since the season began, as well as general fatigue and wear and tear. It looked as though his streak was in jeopardy, but he emphatically said, “I’m OK. Until management tells me I have to sit, I intend to play every game.” Wada added, “Time heals all wounds. He’ll likely move up in the order in time. After all, he is a top-of-the-order hitter. He’ll be in there,” indicating that he will keep Toritani in the starting lineup.

As of June 29, Toritani ranked third in league history with 1536 straight games played and sixth with 502 complete games in succession. Both of these marks are top among shortstops. Through it all, other clubs are grinning from ear to ear. One scout said, “We welcome the idea of Toritani and Wada insisting on him playing every inning of every game. His range on defense has clearly decreased recently. His errors have increased but he’s also made a lot of mistakes that do not show up in the record books. I know management wants to keep using him because he’s got a good bat, but we’re grateful for his present defensive skills.”

Tigers' Ironmen Tomoaki Kanemoto (2003-2012) and Takashi Toritani (2004-present).

Tigers’ Ironmen Tomoaki Kanemoto (2003-2012) and Takashi Toritani (2004-present).

Last year, Toritani was charged with just 5 errors. Already this year after 70 games (as of June 29) he already has 4 (editor’s note: he picked up his 5th on July 3rd), prompting another team’s scout to say, “Hanshin has Murton in left and Uemoto at second, which puts a huge burden on Toritani to play sound defense. Even moreso because he’s playing at less than 100% right now. Wada might be worried that if he pulls Toritani before he sets the record, he will ‘age quickly’ like Kanemoto did and then retire prematurely. But that (way of thinking) works to our advantage.”

Toritani’s always saying, “I know I’ll have to give up playing shortstop when someone better than me comes along. Until then I want to play in every game. I insist on it.” Clearly he wants to make the other teams eat their words.

Here’s to you, #8!


It is fitting that the star of the Tigers’ eighth straight home win is number eight, Kosuke Fukudome. The 38-year old had a game for the ages on Saturday, not only reaching base every time up, but scoring on every occasion as well. The Tigers won 5-3, and we could spend some time looking at the other guys who contributed to the win (Randy Messenger‘s gutsy performance despite a costly error, questionable calls and weak hits that somehow turned into runs; Mauro Gomez‘s 2 RBIs including a late home run that piggybacked on Fukudome’s; Yamato‘s amazing catch in center that was reminiscent of his Nippon Series work last season). You can see GIFs of much of the action here. But let’s focus on what the veteran ex-Dragon, ex-Cub, ex-Indian did to essentially win the game on his own.

After two quick and easy outs to start the first, Fukudome battled his way on base, earning a walk. This gave resurgent cleanup hitter Gomez a chance to bring him home on a deep ball to right-center (video here). The crucial first run of the game went to the Tigers thanks to #8’s keen eye and strong base running.

In the fourth, Baystars pitcher blooped a ball to right, which “the Dome” charged, threw hard to second and induced the ever-so-rare “fielder’s choice to right.” It didn’t prevent a run from scoring on the play, but it helped Messenger get out of a tough inning.

He then led off the bottom of the inning with a stand-up triple (his third of the year after recording none in his first two years with the club). The two imports both grounded out to pitcher, and fans feared another leadoff triple by the PL-graduate would be wasted, until Hiroki Uemoto (a.k.a. Lethal Uepon) punched a ball through the infield (video here). The deficit was cut in half, and the Tigers needed just one more run to even things up.


Who else should be the one to provide the bat but Dome-san? His 10th home run of the year in the sixth was a solo shot, and sent the crowd into a frenzy. (GIF here)

But not as much as his next one, which went to an even deeper part of the stadium, and put the team up a run. (GIF here) It was his first multi-home run game in 8 years, and gave him a final line of: 3 AB, 3 H, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R. Plus one outfield assist. You want clutch? Listen to this: of his 11 bombs on the year, 2 have been the first run scored in the game, 3 have tied the game, 1 broke a tie, 1 reversed the lead, and 1 was a walkoff. Since moving into third in the hitting order, he is 13-for-27 (.481) with 3 HR and 6 RBI.


Here is a translation of the hero interview. Did I mention that I love his curtness and frankness? Curt and Frank would be proud. (video here)

ーTell us how you’re feeling right now.
“Quite frankly I’m happy. Yeah.”

ーFirst, your game-tying home run. You were the leadoff hitter that inning. Can you take us back to what you were thinking at the time?
“What was happening then? I dunno, I think I just went in hoping to get on base.”

ーAnd how did the connection feel?
“It felt great, but the ball in my previous at bat was held in the park by the head winds, so I didn’t think this one had a chance, either.”

ーHow would you rate your condition these days?
“Well, better than usual, I reckon.”

ーHow did you prepare for your at-bat when you hit the go-ahead home run?
“We already had two outs on us that inning, and I might be overstating things but I went in thinking home run.”

ーHow did that one feel?
“Better than the first one.”

ーIt’s your first double-digit home run season since joining the Tigers, and your first in a long time. How does that sound to you?
“Yeah, it took me awhile to get back there.”

ーYou’ve been on a real roll since batting third in the order. How do you like that slot?
“It’s good.”

ーYou scored four runs today, meaning you ran a lot as well.
“I’m ready for a good leg massage tonight.”

ーOn defense you made a great play on (DeNA pitcher) Inoh’s hit, showing great focus in right as well.
“One of the team’s defining characteristics is creating momentum with sound fielding. It all starts there.”

ーThe team is now undefeated in six. How do you feel about the momentum the team has built?
“I think we’ve got some good flow going.”

ーThe team sits atop the standings. How does it feel to play good ball while on top?
“It’s fun!”

ーAbout tomorrow’s game…
“We had some great support from all you fans today, and we’ll do our best to keep things going in tomorrow’s game.”

A Sixth Foreigner!

Original article can be seen here 元の記事はこちら

perezmugThe Hanshin Tigers announced on the 17th that they have reached an agreement with and signed BC League Ishikawa’s Nelson Perez (27) to a contract.

The 191 cm (6’4″) 98 kg (215 lb) Dominican Republic native played on the (Chicago) Cubs’ minor league affiliate teams and in the Mexican league before joining Ishikawa this season.

perezcardPerez had this to say through the club. “I’m so happy and thankful that the Ishikawa Million Stars called me and gave me a chance to play ball in Japan. Thank you very much. I’m so happy that the Hanshin Tigers are giving me a chance as well! I’m going to give it my all to contribute to getting the team a pennant for the best fans in Japan.”

News, Rumors and More…


I honestly wish I could do more than just read articles and translate / summarize them. I wish I could witness events firsthand, interview people myself, and dig for stories that people would want to read. Instead, I scour the headlines for interesting stuff and translate the ones I really think people will want to read, and the ones that sound legitimate. But today there were a few that I think will rock the boat a little, no matter their validity. The following stories were taken from and paraphrased or translated by me. Nothing of my own added in, no check into their truthfulness or accuracy. Take them for what they’re worth, folks.

1) Hankyu-Hanshin Electric General Shareholders’ Meeting

At the shareholders’ meeting on the 16th in Umeda, amidst general questions about railroad companies, a few questions were asked about the baseball club as well. One older man said, “It’s the team’s 80th anniversary and they are awful. I don’t think fans will keep coming to games. I think you should hire Okada as manager next year, what do you think?” referring, of course, to former manager Akinobu Okada.

The reply was: “There have been a lot of painful games up to this point, and we have caused concern to many people. But Wada brought the team through the Climax Series last season and has a track record. The team is 30-33 and just 2.5 games out of first with a full 80 games to go, so we are not even thinking of replacing the manager at this point.”

Another guy wearing a Tigers jersey said, “I wish they would do better. The worst part about the team is that we keep bringing in players from the outside. Why not raise up better players from within the organization? I want to see them win by drafting and training players well, not by purchasing good free agents.”

Yet another talked about the draft as well, specifically saying he wanted the team to draft Tomoya Mori (now with the Saitama Seibu Lions) two years ago, and what the GM was thinking. No answer was printed in the press.

2) The Post-Murton Years Will Start in 2016

The club revealed on June 15 that it will not plan to re-sign Matt Murton next season. GM Nakamura will make a trip to the US in July in search of a new foreigner who could replace him for next year. The current slump combined with his $3.9 US salary are the breaking points. Should the manager find an outfielder that he likes on this trip, it would mean the team is cutting its ties with Murton.

As he continues to struggle through this slump (batting .248 and 0 HRs through 63 games), the team is exploring other options but trying to care for Murton at the same time. It seems they are looking beyond this season and ahead to 2016.

A team executive commented, “Obviously his numbers at this point do not live up to the salary he is being paid.”

The plan is for GM Nakamura and Manager Wada to meet after Interleague play ends and discuss the team’s current state of affairs. The GM was planning to leave for the US at the end of July, but now chances are it will come a little earlier in the month, a team representative said. Whether or not Nakamura will be able to find someone better than Murton, who has a strong track record already, will be a true test of his scouting eye.

Murton returned to the starting lineup in Game 3 of the Orix series, getting two hits, but that did not put anyone at ease. Obviously with 80 games to go this year, his fate is not yet sealed, but he will have to go on an impressive hitting spree in order to convince the team to keep him on beyond this season.

3) Team Will Try to Keep Messenger, Oh

While the team made its intentions clear about Murton, the contracts of Randy Messenger and Seung-hwan Oh also run out at the end of this year.

Messenger is in the second year of his 2 year 500-million yen contract, which is significantly lower than Murton’s. He struggled earlier this year and was dispatched to the farm team, but has since thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings, and it appears the team is looking to sign him on for next season.

Meanwhile, the team seems interested in bringing back second-year closer Oh, but if he demands a huge raise on his two year 600-million yen deal, it will leave the team with a difficult decision to make.

First baseman Mauro Gomez signed a two year 200-million yen contract last offseason with 2016 being the club’s option.

What’s up with Murton?

Apparently it's not OK to smile in the dugout...

Apparently it’s not OK to smile in the dugout…

Many of the local sports pages have been asking what the deal is with Matt Murton these days. Obviously the big problem is that the reigning batting champ has been hitting rather poorly since the season began, but it’s not just that. It’s the perceived attitude he has had of late as well. Here are a few summaries of articles I found online, and my own commentary at the end.

Yahoo Sports had this to say on Friday (original article here):

Some in the organization have said that they are worried Murton might be calling it quits at the end of this season. (Thursday) he hit into two double plays and went 0-for-4, and after 55 games is hitting just .245 with 17 RBIs and no home runs yet. Manager Wada says, “He’s not at his best, that’s for sure, but he’s not always bad. It feels like he wavers from at bat to at bat.” Others in the organization have said, “This year’s Murton is different from last year’s. It’s hard to tell if his heart is in it. On defense and on the base paths he’s showing some heart, but at the plate he looks indifferent. The umpires’ strike zone is inconsistent this year and surely Murton, who has a good eye at the plate, has not been happy about that, but that can’t be all there is to it.”

It could also be about his place in the batting order, which has jumped from 5th to 6th to 3rd and even 1st once. But the biggest concern is his mental state. One of his teammates says, “Even in the midst of his slump, he’s all smiley and stuff on the bench.” That’s something the team never saw last year. Even after his hitless performance on this day, he was all smiles on the bench and he skipped his way back to the locker room. Whatever is going on, it’s starting to affect the rest of the team. Let’s hope all this worrying about him quitting will blow off if he turns things around. IF…

Then Sanspo wrote this on Saturday (original article here):

Because of Murton’s prolonged slump, the team has confirmed it is looking into acquiring a sixth foreigner. With no signs of breaking out of his funk, the team has explored the possibility of signing either ex-Carp Micah Kila Ka’aihue or ex-Fighter Juan Miranda.

 He seemed happy enough while practicing indoors during the rainy weather that canceled (Friday’s) game, but underneath the surface the team is making moves. He can’t be doing so well mentally, as he is just a shadow of who he was last year. And with a salary of 450,000,000 yen, a little change in the batting order is obviously not the answer.

A team executive laments, “It’s a headache. We have no choice but to think of acquiring another foreigner, one who can play left field.” It seems the team was giving Murton until the end of May to turn things around but decided to wait a little longer. But he only hit .231 against the Marines from June 2-4, so it seems he’s not getting better.

“We want someone who has experience playing ball in Japan, so we’re making a list. Once we complete the list, we will start the process of finding the right guy,” says a team rep.

My turn. I have not watched every game this year, but have easily seen over half of them. Murton has not looked like he did last season. He has at times, though, but those are just the times he’s gotten hits. He has not hustled as much to first base, and is hitting the ball on the ground much more than he did last season. He also has failed to drive the ball to left field. Most of his hits have come on balls hit the opposite way. He can find the gap between first and second, particularly when there is a runner on first base and the gap there is wider, but his pulling power is all but gone.

The chart above shows Murton’s batting average when hitting the ball to left, center and right. It looks at the last 4 seasons, I believe to show his two great seasons (2013 and 2014) in comparison to his two “poor” seasons (2012 and this year). What stands out to me is that Murton is actually hitting the ball to center and left almost as much as in seasons past (he’s on pace to hit to left 182 times and center 237 times) and to right just a little more (on pace for 117) than previously, but his success rates are quite different. I would dare wager that 70% or so of his hits to left and center this year have been grounders, only a few of which he has been able to beat out for hits.

I honestly wonder if sending him down to the minors for a few weeks wouldn’t do him some good. It seems to have done the trick with Randy Messenger (5.88 ERA before May 10, and 0.00 in two starts since being recalled). This does not necessarily mean it would work with Matt, but it certainly is worth a shot. Either that or just let him swing away on the minor circuit without a demotion. Did you know that players are allowed to participate in minor league games while remaining on the big league roster? Maybe he needs more in-game practice with his swing and facing live pitching. Who knows?

I am also concerned with his mental health. It seems to me that he is a lot more irritable this season than he ever has been before. True, he has always worn his heart on his sleeve, but it seems like he is yelling at opposing team’s players, the umpires, etc. a lot more, and perhaps with stronger language than in the past.

Last bit of worthless speculation from me. Could it be that he just isn’t happy playing under Wada? Has he reached his limit and just stopped caring? I hope not. For the team’s sake, for his own sake, I hope he can continue playing (and succeeding) with the team for years to come.

Yume wo nosete yatte kita, let’s go Murton… MURTON! MURTON!

Article Translation – Announcer Announces Retirement

The original article can be seen here 元の記事はこちらです

Koshien Stadium’s “Nightingale Announcer” Kayo Mizutani’s Last Call

by Mayumi Doi


“Batting first, third baseman, Nishioka.” It seems like that beautiful voice and smooth cadence have been echoing throughout Koshien Stadium since ages ago. May 10th. That day marks the final day of working as “nightingale announcer” (uguisu jo) at Koshien Stadium for Kayo Mizutani.

“Just stay calm and don’t make any mistakes. This is just like any other day, I kept telling myself. If I didn’t, my voice would have betrayed me,” explained Mizutani, the woman with the beautiful voice, as the curtain fell on her 15-year career as Koshien Stadium announcer.


Life-Changing Announcement at Koshien


Mizutani hails from Ishikawa prefecture and was a clubhouse manager for her high school’s baseball club. One of her jobs was to announce during games, but she didn’t consider broadcasting as a career at the time. Rather, she felt like she had been forced to do it. She vaguely hoped to find a baseball-related job in the future, but announcing was not one of the options she had in mind.

But in her final year of high school just before the summer tournament, that fateful encounter took place. Once every three years, Ishikawa prefecture would invite the Koshien Stadium announcer to hold a short course. Mizutani, took part in it, but “I knew nothing of the depths and wonders of stadium announcing. But I was deeply moved: ‘That’s what it takes to be a Koshien Stadium announcer! Wow!'”

The announcer who conducted the course was none other than current director of stadium announcers Kayoko Yamasaki. And Mizutani, who until then “had no ideas about my future,” instantly made the decision to try to become a stadium announcer upon hearing Yamasaki’s voice in person.

She didn’t have the foggiest clue of how to become Koshien’s announcer, though. Her first thought was to get a part-time job at the stadium, which she did – finding work as a receptionist, a vendor, and so on. While working, she dropped the hint countless times that she wanted to find work in the field of announcing. “Unless there’s a vacancy it can’t happen. And we have nothing opening up anytime soon,” was the rejection she continued to hear.

Three years and two months into her time at Koshien, the time came. “There happened to be a vacancy, and I was granted an interview.” That was May 2001, and in June she found herself working in the announcing industry.

But this is a rare case. It’s not like there is a clear path laid out for part-timers at Koshien to become announcers. “The timing just happened to be right. I got really lucky,” Mizutani emphasizes. No doubt Mizutani’s passion came across and the baseball gods granted her wish to her.


The One Time My Mind Went Blank


Mizutani’s dreams had come true but she was not able to start announcing games right away. The first job given to new hirees is telephone answering and recording services. You know the recorded playback when you call Koshien Stadium? That one. Also they do announcements outside the stadium. Like when the stadium gates open, cautions, and other public service announcements.

Next is doing the announcements for offseason events at the stadium. For instance, doing in-game announcing for baseball clubs that rent out Koshien.

Then they move on to pro games, but just like the pros, they start on the farm. They pick up experience doing Western League games.

She started taking charge of high school baseball announcing at the national summer tournament, and finally made her big league debut on August 31, 2003. “I can remember it clearly even now. (Shinobu) Fukuhara made the start, knocked in a run himself and won the match. I’m pretty sure it was 4-1.” It was an unforgettable match for Mizutani.

Even more than what happened during the game, she remembers how she herself felt. “When I say I remember, I mean that I remember blanking out.” The fact is, games were much more difficult and complicated to announce back then. During the game you would have to announce sponsorships along with athletes’ achievements, like if the first hit was a home run, there would be announcements for “First Hit Award,” “First Run Award,” “First RBI Award” and “First Home Run Award” and the sponsoring products to introduce. How to put that all together would be up to the announcer and had to be done ad lib. The game is a living thing, and you don’t know what’s going to come at you when. You have to make shrewd and quick decisions.

But Mizutani seasoned her announcements with quick wit and got through it all without incident. “That was the first time I felt like I drew a blank.” But now it’s a good memory.


High School and Pro Baseball


Koshien Stadium is both the home turf of the Hanshin Tigers and the sacred grounds of high school baseball. Is there a difference in how Mizutani announces them? This is what she had to say: “For baseball boys, the high school tournament might be seen as a ‘one shot deal’ and their ‘last chance,’ but it’s not a good idea to think about that too much. I’m usually the type to get emotional really easily so I try to keep level-headed and just make sure I don’t make a mistake with their names when I announce.”

On the other hand, “not making any mistakes with the pros is a given, so I try to use more variation in my announcements with them. Announcing the next batter, making public service announcements and giving warnings all have a different feel to them.” So fun announcements in a cheerful voice, and warnings with a tone that says, “Be careful!”

She also put full attention into improving her announcing techniques to make sure they were properly received by the crowd. “There are actually a lot of things to keep in mind when imparting information. Purposeful inflections, stretching out and shortening sentences, pauses. Putting a pause in front of something really important. Highs, lows, tightness, looseness. Even now I feel like there’s lots to think about.”

Always her own worst critic, Mizutani always reflects on her performance and says, “There’s not a single time I got it all 100% right.” We’re not talking about mistakes that the average person would pick up on, but “I didn’t use the right inflection on this person’s name.” Things only a person of her talent and level would pick up on.

Her master, Yamasaki couldn’t say enough kind things about Mizutani, whose awareness of what it means to be a pro included “looking things up beforehand, revising the script thoroughly and just being prepared. She was reliable for all these years and kept that same eagerness that she had right from the start.”


Fujinami Loved Her Announcing, Too


Soon after Mizutani made her debut with the parent club, word in the baseball world was that “a big name freshman joined the Koshien staff.” Right from the start she gained a reputation for having a beautiful and clear voice. She also held hi standards for herself and worked hard to reach them.

So on the occasion that she heard someone say, “The announcing at Koshien is second to none,” she felt supreme joy as she thought to herself that she had successfully carried the torch passed on to her by previous Koshien announcers.

Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, “Koshien poster boy,” also has a special place in his heart for the announcing at Koshien. “Even before I started playing high school ball I would come to the stadium and hear her voice. It’s been a part of my life for a long time and has left a strong impression on me. That slow, orthodox delivery and sticking to the basics really appealed to me. The way they pump things up at other stadiums, that’s cool and all but I personally prefer Koshien announcers.” That style that Fujinami loves is the very style that Mizutani longed to emulate, then inherited, then worked hard to preserve.

Mizutani will be on maternity leave for the time being. “I’m really not sure what I’ll be doing a year from now but in my heart it feels like the announcing season in my life has been completed. That is how I approached these final days.” Now, she’s leaving the announcing to her subordinates. She also has an important message to impart to them: “When you’re broadcasting, I want you to do it with the confidence that you’re the best at what you’re doing. If you make a mistake, brush it off. I would be happy to hear that you take pride in what you do.”

It is sad to think that we will not be hearing Mizutani’s voice anymore, but as long as the next uguisu jo carry the spirit of Mizutani in them, announcements at Koshien Stadium will continue to add color to the game of baseball.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day!

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちら

Reliever Shinobu Fukuhara pens a short message to his mother on this special Mother's Day baseball.

Reliever Shinobu Fukuhara pens a short message to his mother on this special Mother’s Day baseball.

Nikkan Sports interviewed 3 Hanshin Tigers about mothers. Here is what each had to say:

Randy Messenger: Without her, I would have never been born. My mom is such a such a huge part of my life. Thanks to my mom, I was born and raised to be big and healthy. The reason I was able to become a ball players is because of my size. Every year, I send her a bouquet of flowers and make sure it arrives on Mother’s Day. She always makes sure to let me know that I have good sense and that she liked them. I wonder if she liked the ones I sent this year?

Shinobu Fukuhara: My mother (Emiko) doesn’t make it out to games much anymore, but she has been rooting for me ever since I was little. She cheered twice as loud as everyone else (You can do it! You can do it!) so it was a little embarrassing at times… at the time I was embarrassed, anyways, but now I’m really thankful. If I got hurt, she would send text messages to my cell phone. My dad was really strict all along, but my mom always had my back.

Minoru Iwata: Actually I have three children of my own, so I am really thankful for my wife and mother of our kids. When I’m on the road (which is about half the month) she’s left to herself to raise the three kids, and she does a great job. Scratch that… if you throw in me and the dog, it’s like she’s really got her arms full with 5 kids! Our wedding anniversary was May 1st, so lately I gave her a present to show her my gratitude.