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A Historical Moment in Japanese Baseball History

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 2000-02-27

For the first time in Japanese baseball history, a minor league team has branched off from its major league counterpart by taking on a new name and a unique uniform. Though the practice is already common in the United States, the Central League’s Yokohama Bay Stars became only the first in Japan to introduce their farm team as the Shonan Searex, with a completely different uniform.

The Bay Stars’ traditional royal blue and white colors were changed for the Searex to turquoise, white, and black. The Searex arrived last week to play against the Bay Stars at the Millennium Charity Game on Friday, February 18th at the Ginowan baseball complex. Although the Bay Stars beat the Searex 6 to 1, the event brought light to the otherwise overshadowed minor league team. The event drew media attention, as baseball fans displayed all their excitement in watching the Searex boys play. The Searex will be practicing with the Bay Stars at Ginowan fields until the 27th of this month.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, February 16th, the Yokohama Bay Stars - who have been conducting their springtime training on Okinawa for the past weeks - played the Tokyo Broadcasting Station (TBS) game known as “Kinniku Banzukei” or muscle ranking. The program’s goal is to challenge the competitors’ skills in a variety of domains, so that they can prove they have what it takes to move up the muscle-ranking ladder. Every year each professional baseball team is asked to play two types of games during the off-season.

One of the contests is for the pitching players, who must throw a ball through a very small hole on a board. Another contest is for the infielders and outfielders. The pro teams assemble 10 of their better hitters to play the tic-tac-toe style game. There is a board in the center of the field with 9 numbers and a picture of a guard on top. The hitters are allowed 12 swings to make a tic-tac-toe, unless they miss the board completely 3 times in a row, in which case they are out of the contest. Additionally, if they hit the guard, then they are given a free swing.

The top player of the day was Takanori Suzuki, who is known to have led the Central League in batting average during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. This time, he was able to complete two full rows of numbers, and won ¥300,000 for the effort! For one row, a player would receive ¥100,000, ¥500,000 for three rows, and the fourth row for ¥1,000,000! If a player got all numbers with the Guard, he would get ¥2,000,000!

The contest was entertaining for fans and players alike.

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