Saturday, April 25, 2009


The Boston Red Sox have overcome a 2-6 start to their American League season with a seven-game winning streak. The Red Sox swept both ends of a day-night doubleheader April 22 to pull their record up to 9-6, good enough for a second-place tie with the New York Yankees in the AL East.

Boston won the opening game at Fenway Park, 10-1, as Nick Green rapped a two-run homer and an RBI double to help knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pick up the win. The Red Sox went on to win the nightcap as well, 7-3. Jeff Bailey cranked a three-run homer off Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano. The two wins came on Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s 50th birthday.

Boston and New York are both 1.5 games behind 11-5 Toronto in the AL East. Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago are tied for the Central lead at 8-6, while Seattle leads the West at 9-6.


Although the Florida Marlins were swept in a three-game road series in Pittsburgh last week, the Miami team still has the best record in the National League at 11-4. Florida’s 7-4 loss at PNC Park on April 22 marked the fifth game in a row that the Marlins fell behind to start a contest after the Pirates’ Andy LaRoche doubled in Freddy Sanchez in the bottom of the first inning.

Wes Helms’ RBI double put the Marlins on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth and the game was eventually tied at 4-4 before the Pirates scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead for good. Florida had won 11 of their first 12 games before going into Pittsburgh.

Despite the three straight losses, Florida leads the NL East with an 11-4 record. St. Louis sits atop the Central Division at 10-5, while Los Angeles is likewise 10-5 to lead the West.


While La Habana still leads Cuba’s Occidental Division by five games, Pinar del Rio is making things interesting after winning eleven straight National Series games. Isla de la Juventud is in third place, seven games behind Pinar. The top four teams in each division qualify for playoffs.

In the Oriental Division, Ciego de Avila won nine of 12 games to pull six games ahead of Santiago de Cuba, who lost five of six games in one recent stretch. Slumping Villa Clara is in third place after losing ten of their first 12 games following the World Baseball Classic.

Yoandry Garlobo of Matanzas leads the Cuban league with a .405 batting average, just three percentage points ahead of Yorelvis Charles of Ciego de Avila. Isla de Juventud’s Wilber Perez has a Series-best ten wins, while Alfredo Unzue of Ciego de Avila leads with a 1.63 ERA in 72 innings.


The Reynosa Broncos (18-6) snuck past the Mexico City Diablos Rojos (18-7) by a 10-9 score on April 21 to take sole possession of first place in the Mexican League’s North Division. Derrick White, Marshall McDougall and Ray Martinez all homered for the Broncos, for whom closer Alan Guerrero is off to a phenomenal start with an LMB-best six wins and five saves in his first 16 outings.

The Quintana Roo Tigres (18-7) have a one-game lead over the Yucatan Leones (17-8) in the South Division. The Tigres lost to Puebla, 4-1, April 21 as the Pericos’ Willis Otanez clobbered the 300th homer of his minor league career. Otanez ended the night with two homers, and now tops the Liga longball tables with nine. Puebla is third in the South at 15-10, four games behind Quintana Roo.


Pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Abe drilled the first pitch he saw from Takehiko Oshimoto off the right field wall to drive in the winning run in the ninth inning April 22 as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yakult Swallows, 2-1, in a Japanese Central League contest. The win was the sixth in a row for the Giants.

The game was a scoreless tie until the top of the fourth inning, when Yomiuri’s Yoshitomo Tani stroked an RBI double. Yakult knotted the score in the bottom of the eighth when Norichika Aoki socked a game-tying double, setting up Abe’s ninth-inning heroics for the Giants. Daisuke Ochi is now 2-0 after collecting the win in relief.

With the win, Yomiuri’s record went to 11-3-2 on the season, good for first place in the Central League standings. Yakult fell to 9-7 after losing their third game in a row, but still holds second place by one game over the 8-8 Chunichi Dragons.


Takeshi Hidaka whacked a walk-off homer off Koji Onuma in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Orix Blue Wave a 2-1 victory over the Seibu Lions April 22 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome. Reliever Daisuke Kato picked up his first win in five decisions for Orix, which evened its record at 8-8. Seibu fell to 8-8-1 with the loss. The Blue Wave turned a 5-4-3 triple play in the fourth stanza, marking the second time a Pacific League team has registered a triple killing this month after Nippon Ham turned one against Lotte on April 7.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles lead the Pacific League with a 9-6 record despite a 5-2 loss to Lotte April 22. Naotaka Takehara went 4-for-5 to key the Marines’ 18-hit attack as five Lotte players finished with three or more hits. Marines starter Shingo Ono went eight innings and gave up two runs on six hits with no walks to even his record at 1-1. The win snapped Lotte’s three-game losing streak.


Jae-hong Park is on the verge of becoming the first player in Korea Baseball Organization history to collect 250 homers and 250 stolen bases in his career. The 35-year-old Park, who plays for the defending KBO champion SK Wyverns, has recorded three homers and two steals this season, giving him 277 roundtrippers and 249 swipes since his rookie season in 1996.

Park smashed 30 homers and stole 36 bases in his first year, becoming the first member of Korea’s 30-30 Club. Just to show it wasn’t a fluke, Park turned in a 30-homer, 43-steal campaign in 1998 before a 32-30 season in 2000. But, apparently, that was then and this is now.

Since pilfering a bag against the Kia Tigers April 10, Park has gone eight games without a steal. He’s hitting just .229 this year, including a stretch of just three hits and one walk in 28 plate appearances between April 11 through 16. To add injury to insult, Park was drilled on the right knee by a Hanwha Eagles pitcher April 17, and has experienced discomfort and swelling ever since.

Despite Park’s woes, the Wyverns are otherwise firing on all cylinders with a KBO-leading 11-4-6 record. The Doosan Bears are second at 9-6-1, while the 9-7-0 Samsung Lions hold third place.


The Sinon Bulls swept a three-game series over the Brother Elephants last week to build a 1.5-game lead over the La New Bears at the top of the Chinese Professional Baseball League standings. Sinon broke out the brooms with an 8-6 win over Brother April 19 as Jian-shien “Ugly” Hsieh capped a seven-run second inning with a three-run homer for the Bulls against Elephant ace Yu-cheng “The Golden Submarine” Liao. Sinon is now 10-5-1, while Brother dropped to 5-13.

Meanwhile, the Uni-President Lions topped the La New Bears, 5-0, April 19 to take the rubber match of their three-game series in Tainan. Lions’ righty Mickey Callaway, who pitched in America and Korea before coming to Taiwan, threw 6.1 innings of shutout ball for the win, scattering three hits and striking out six Bears batsmen. Callaway and the Uni-President bullpen halted the Bears’ Chih-sheng Lin’s five-game home run streak. The Bears fell to 9-7, while the Lions are now 9-8-1.


Former Tennessee head coach Rod Delmonico, who managed The Netherlands to a second round appearance at the World Baseball Classic last month, attended a Dutch Major League game for the first time April 19 as DOOR Neptunus beat HCAW Mr. Crocker, 4-3, in Rotterdam.

One of Delmonico’s WBC players, outfielder Eugene Kingsale, doubled in the third inning and later came around to score to give Neptunus a 1-0 lead off HCAW starter Joey Eijpe. Mr. Crocker scored twice in the fourth inning and once more in the seventh to go ahead 3-1. However, Neptunus came roaring back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh, including a two-run double by Raily Legito, to regain the lead at 4-3 and never looked back.

Corendon Kinheim came back after being swept by the Amsterdam Pirates in the season-opening series by taking two shutouts over MediaMonks RCH last weekend, 11-0 and 3-0 for Kinheim’s first wins of the Dutch League season. Amsterdam is now 5-0 after beating Sparta/Feyenoord twice. Neptunus and the Konica Minolta Pioniers are both right behind at 4-0.


Telemarket Rimini defeated Cariparma Parma, 5-2, on April 18 to take the Italian League lead with a 5-1 record. Daniel Gonzalez notched an RBI single in the third to give Rimini the lead, and Eddie Rios blasted two homers to help seal the deal. Telemarket starter Sandy Patrone allowed one run on six hits over 6.2 innings for the win, while Parma’s Roberto Corradini pitched well in defeat, giving up two runs on five hits in 5.2 frames.

After starting the season by winning their first four games, defending champion T&A San Marino ran into a surprisingly tough De Angelis GODO team last week. GODO won two games of three against San Marino, including a 7-6 thriller on April 18. After taking a 4-0 lead, GODO gave up six unanswered runs to fall behind, 6-4, before scoring three times for the come-from-behind win. A two-run homer by Danilo Sanchez in the top of the ninth was the difference-maker for De Angelis.

Danesi Nettuno is tied with San Marino for second place at 4-2 following an 11-4 loss to Fortitudo Bologna April 18. Juan Carlos Infante, Giovanni Pantaleoni and Matthew Stocco each had three hits and two runs for Bologna, who is tied with Parma for fourth place with a 3-3 record.


The London Mets apparently won’t have it nearly so easy this season. After sweeping through the British National League last year with only one loss during the regular season and playoffs, the Mets lost two games to the Richmond Flames last weekend to surpass their 2008 loss total on the opening weekend of British League action.

Michael Osborn pitched well enough in Richmond’s opening 5-4 win over London on April 19, and Cody Cain’s three-run homer highlighted the Flames’ 11-3 win in the nightcap.

In the other British League doubleheader, the expansion Hertfordshire Falcons won twice against the Croydon Pirates in Croydon. Herts won the opening game, 11-5, and reached double digits on the scoreboard again with a 10-3 win in the second game.


The Belgian Baseball League opened its season last weekend and, like Bull Durham pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, the Hoboken Pioneers “announced their presence with authority” by thrashing the four-time champion Brasschaat Braves, 20-0, on April 18. Hoboken lost the league finals last season to the Antwerp Royal Greys, and has high expectations in 2009 with pitchers Terence Antonacci and T.J. Hendricks on the roster. Both are considered imports and can only pitch limited innings, although Antonacci is married to a Belgian woman and is eligible to pitch for the Belgian National Team.

Antwerp split their first two games with the Namur Angels, winning the April 18 opener, 7-0, before dropping a 1-0 decision one day later. The Royal Greys are looking for their fifth consecutive Belgian League pennant this season.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


When Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki sliced a single to right field off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Joe Saunders in the fourth inning on Thursday, April 16, he broke a record that now crosses both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Suzuki’s hit was the 3,086th of his career in both Japan and Major League Baseball, breaking Isao Harimoto’s 27-year-old record for lifetime hits among Japanese players. The 68-year-old Harimoto was on hand at Safeco Field to congratulate Suzuki afterward.

The hit off Saunders was the 1,808th of Suzuki’s Major League career. Prior to his arrival in Seattle in 2001, he stroked another 1,278 safeties in nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Japan’s Pacific League. All of Harimoto’s 3,085 career hits came in the Japanese leagues.

In eight full seasons in America, Suzuki has never had fewer than 200 hits or scored less than 100 runs a year, and has won a Gold Glove and played in the All-Star Game every season.


Hitting for the cycle is one of baseball’s rarest feats. Yet, two Major League players turned that trick within two days of each other…and both are second basemen.

On Monday, April 13, second sacker Orlando Hudson became the first Los Angeles player ever to hit for the cycle at Dodger Stadium, and the first Dodger to do it at all since Wes Parker did it at Shea Stadium in New York in 1970. Hudson finished the game 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two driven in as the Dodgers beat Randy Johnson and the San Francisco Giants, 11-1.

Two nights later, Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler did Hudson one better, hitting for the cycle en route to a 6-for-6 performance at the plate as the Rangers trashed the Baltimore Orioles, 19-8. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kinsler is the first player since 1890 to hit for the cycle during a 6-for-6 day at the plate in a nine-inning game.


With the Cuban National Series regular season winding down, two teams appear to be cruising to first place finishes in their respective divisions.

La Habana is 49-26 in the Occidental Division, good for a five-game lead over 44-31 Pinar del Rio and a 13-game bulge over 36-39 Isla de La Juventud. Things are a little more competitive in the Oriental Division, although 53-22 Ciego de Avila is six games up on 47-28 Santiago de Cuba. Villa Clara is right behind Santiago at 46-29 after starting the season on fire.

Yorelvis Charles of Ciego de Avila leads Cuban batters with a .404 average, while Yoandry Garlobo of Matanzas is second at .395.


The Quintana Roo Tigres lead the Mexican League South Division with a 14-6 record, thanks in part to a five-game winning streak last week. Both Puebla and Yucatan are two games back at 12-8. In the LMB North, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos are in a battle for first with the Reynosa Broncos. Mexico City is a Mexican-best 16-5 thus far in 2009, while the Broncos (who relocated from Tijuana in the offseason) are hot on the Diablos’ heels at 15-5.

Mexico City’s lveteran outfielder Victor Bojorquez leads the Liga in batting at .463. Teammates Eduardo Arredondo and Roberto Saucedo are also hitting .440 and .404, respectively.


After a streaky performance for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, Yu Darvish appears to be back on track pitching for the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters. Darvish held the Seibu Lions to two runs on three hits over eight innings on Friday, April 17 as the Fighters beat Seibu, 4-2, for their third consecutive win. Darvish struck out eight and walked two for the win, retiring the first eight batters he faced before Seibu’s Hiram Bocachica slammed a homer in the third inning. Shinji Takahashi hit a two-run homer and singled in another score for the Fighters, who got a scoreless ninth inning from reliever Hisashi Takeda for the save.

Despite the loss, Seibu held on to first place in the Pacific League with a 7-4-1 record, a half-game ahead of 7-5 Rakuten. Nippon Ham moved into third place at 6-5, while Orix is in fourth with a 6-6 mark. Lotte is fifth place at 4-7, just ahead of 4-7-1 Softbank.


Import first baseman Seung-Yeop Lee bashed a pair of solo homers and Alex Ramirez pounded a two-run bomb to lead the Yomiuri Giants to a 4-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Friday, April 17 at the Nagoya Dome. Ramirez’ homer in the fourth inning tied the game at 3-3, and Lee’s second roundtripper of the night put the Giants ahead for good. Yomiuri starter Sun Tono’s record went to 2-0 after a five-inning outing in which he let in three Chunichi runs on five hits, and closer Marc Kroon came on for his third save of the young season. Chunichi’s Kazuki Yoshimi gave up all three homers.

The win gave Yomiuri sole possession of first place in Japan’s Central League with a 6-3-2 record. Chunichi, Yakult and Hiroshima are all in a virtual tie for second at 6-5, although Hiroshima also has a tie. Hanshin is in fifth place with a 4-6-1 mark, while Yokohama brings up the rear at 4-8.


Joon-hyuk Yang of the Samsung Lions is now just one home run away from setting the Korea Baseball Organization’s all-time homer record after blasting the 340th roundtripper of his career Tuesday, April 14 in the bottom of the first inning of a game against the Hanwha Eagles. Yang is tied on top of the list with Jong-hoon Jang, who now manages Hanwha’s minor league team.

The 39-year-old Yang is in his 17th professional season. He was the KBO’s Rookie of the Year with Samsung in 1993, and has gone on to appear in 14 All-Star Games, win eight Gold Gloves and posted nine straight seasons in which he batted .300 or better. He has posted over 2,000 hits in his career, with at least 100 hits every year since 1993. He has registered four seasons with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, and posted 15 consecutive seasons of double-digit home run totals (including nine years or 20 or more dingers). Yang has hit for the cycle twice, in 1996 and 2003, both times against the Hyundai Unicorns.

A left-handed Daegu native, Yang also played for the Haitai Tigers and LG Twins before returning to Samsung in 2003.


Weeks after Taiwan’s embarrassing performance in the World Baseball Classic, the island nation’s capital city was introduced to its new baseball team, courtesy of its local government. The new Taipei team was formed by city leaders after a federal call to revive the game at all levels.

Taipei mayor Lung-bin Hau was on hand to introduce the 21 players on the new team, which will be led on the field by Ying Chieh Kao, who coached current New York Yankees pitcher Chien-ming Wang. The government had originally planned to pick 25 players for Taipei’s team, but settled on a list of 21 ex-pros, college and high school products. Former dMedia T-Rex player Chu-jien Hsu, who was not selected, claimed he was blacklisted because of rumors he was involved in the gambling and game-fixing scandals that led to the T-Rex being disbanded after last season.

Governments in Taipei and Taoyuan Counties and Taichung City are also forming municipal teams, none of which apparently plan to petition to join the Chinese Professional Baseball League.


Defending champion T&A San Marino is off to a 4-0 start in the Italian League, but Danesi Nettuno is keeping pace with three impressive wins to kick off the 2009 season. Nettuno wrapped up a three-game sweep of DeAngelis Godo on Sunday, April 12 with a 13-4 win. Ramon Tavarez had three hits (including a grand slam) and drove in five runs for the winners, while Manny Alexander scored four runs. Lino Connell drove in four runs on a single and double for Godo. Nettuno starter Carlos Richetti was perfect for 2.1 innings, but the win went to reliever Massimiliano Masin, who went 4.2 innings out of the bullpen. Nettuno outscored Godo, 26-9, for the series.

Telemarket Rimini and Cariparma Parma are both a game out of first at 3-1. Rimini took three in a row from the Grosseto Orioles, including a 12-3 pasting on Sunday, April 12. Rimini scored all their runs between the fourth and eighth innings as Eddie Rios and Ivanon Coffie both homered. Rios ended the game with three runs scored and three RBIs.


Last fall saw the Amsterdam Pirates win the Dutch Major League pennant in a final series win over two-time defending champion Corendon Kinheim. While both teams qualified for the European Cup Final Four with strong performances earlier this month in Italy during Euro Cup qualifier action, the two clubs have opened their regular Dutch League schedules in decidedly-different fashion.

Amsterdam picked up where they left off last year by sweeping a three-game series over Kinheim last weekend, winning by an average score of 8-3. The broom job leaves the Pirates alone on top of the league standings at 3-0. Conversely, Kinheim is in last place with an 0-3 mark.

Elsewhere in The Netherlands, Mr. Crocker HCAW, DOOR Neptunus and the Konica Minolta Pioniers are all tied for second at 2-0. Mr. Crocker took two games from MediaMonks RCH, Neptunus won twice against ADO and Konica Minolta beat Sparta/Feyenoord in a pair of games.


Two familiar teams are sitting on top of the division standings in the German League heading into Week 4 of the Bundesliga’s 2009 schedule. The Solingen Alligators are 6-0 out the gate to lead the North Division by two games over the 4-0 Paderborn Untouchables. The Alligators were scheduled to host the 3-3 Pulheim Gophers Saturday, April 18 in a day-night doubleheader, with the second game being the first game under the lights in Germany this season. In other North Division games, Paderborn will play the HSV Stealers and the Dortmund Wanderers will be looking for their first win of the season in a home twinbill against the Cologne Cardinals.

In the South, Regensburg’s Buchbinder Legionaere are 4-0 heading into an important two-game road doubleheader against the 3-1 Mainz Athletics on April 18. Regensburg is the defending Bundesliga champion, while Mainz was the German champion in 2007. Two local rivals, the Gauting Indians and Haar Disciples, will meet in Eglfing while the Heidenheim Heidekoepfe will wrap up the weekend with two games against the Saarlouis Hornets.


Usually when a team in any sport has a road series against the defending league champion, there are certain things they need to do before leaving home…Like buy airplane tickets. Apparently, that’s not how they do things in Barcelona.

Heading into last weekend, Barcelona’s Spanish League team was 5-0 going into their series in the Canary Islands against the 6-0 Puerto Cruz Marlins. However, nobody from Barcelona bothered to book a flight for the team, and the result was a double forfeit of the two scheduled games to Puerto Cruz. Barcelona was expected to file an appeal with the Spanish Baseball and Softball Federation, which ruled the team had plenty of time to plan the trip, including contacting the airlines.

Puerto Cruz is now 8-0, second-place Sant Boi is 7-1, and Barcelona is 5-2 and in dire need of a 2009 calendar. On a positive note, they didn’t have to pay for in-flight peanuts or soda pop.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Major League Baseball’s 2009 season is underway. April 6 saw Opening Day heroics from the likes of Ken Griffey Junior, Francisco Rodriguez, Tony Clark, Felipe Lopez and Emilio Bonifacio.

Griffey hit an Opening Day homer for the eighth time in his career as the Seattle Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins, 6-1, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Griffey’s homer, the 612th of his career, ties him with Frank Robinson for most Opening Day longballs.

Rodriguez made his debut for the New York Mets a memorable one, striking out Cincinnati’s Ramon Hernandez to finish a 1-2-3 ninth inning and save the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Reds at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.

Clark and Lopez became the first pair of switch-hitters from the same team to hit homers from both sides of the plate on Opening Day in nine seasons as the Arizona Diamondbacks held off the Colorado Rockies, 9-8, at Chase Field in Phoenix.

The 23-year-old Bonifacio was 4-for-4 with three stolen bases for the Florida Marlins in a 12-6 win over Washington in Miami’s Dolphin Stadium. Bonifacio hit an inside-the-park homer, becoming the first big leaguer to do so on Opening Day since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski turned the trick in 1968.


The Philadelphia Phillies were presented their 2008 World Series championship rings on April 8 prior to their home game against Atlanta. Each ring has 103 diamonds (representing each win in 2008), totaling 3.84 carats. The rings are made of 14-carat white gold and crowned with a ruby inlay topped with the franchise’s signature letter “P.”

The Phillies were set to visit the White House in Washington on April 14 to meet the president and vice president of the United States. Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins is making a return trip to the Oval Office. He met the president in 1991 after his Babe Ruth League team won its World Series.


Fifteen different nations outside the USA were represented on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day rosters this season. Out of 818 total listed players (including 70 disabled or restricted big leaguers), 229 were born outside the United States, comprising 28 percent of all MLB players.

The Dominican Republic has exported the most major leaguers with 81 players, followed by 52 from Venezuela, 28 Puerto Ricans and 14 from Mexico.

Among Major League teams, the Seattle Mariners had the most import players on Opening Day with 15, followed by the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox with 12 each.


According to the Associated Press, Major League Baseball’s combined player payrolls are down 1.7 percent from a year ago. The drop is the first since 2004, and the second since the 1994 strike.

As usual, the New York Yankees are the most generous team with a payroll of $201 million in 2009, followed by the New York Mets at $136 million, Chicago Cubs at $135 million and Boston Red Sox at $123 million. The lowest-paying team is the Florida Marlins with a $37 million payroll. The San Diego Padres hold $43 million in contracts, while the Pittsburgh Pirates are paying out $49 million.

Despite the overall drop, the average player’s salary is $3.24 million, up 2.7 percent.


The weather in Italy held up long enough earlier this month to allow the European Cup’s final four teams to be determined. Holland’s Corendon Kinheim and Amsterdam Pirates will be joined by Italy’s Danesi Nettuno and Fortitudo Bologna in Barcelona, Spain when the finals are played in June.

Amsterdam took the top seed in their six-team pool in Nettuno, including a clinching 8-4 win over Germany’s Regensburg Legionaere on April 4. Jos de Jong got the win for the Pirates after allowing three runs over seven innings. Nettuno won the second Final Four berth in their hometown pool by topping France’s Rouen Huskies, 7-3, as Giovanni Carrara came out of the bullpen to toss three scoreless innings for the win.

In Matino, where first-day play was called off due to unplayable grounds, Bologna bested Spain’s FC Barcelona, 2-1, on April 4 to take the top seed out of the pool as Jesus Matos turned in a splendid performance for Bologna, no-hitting Barcelona for five innings en route to the complete game win. Kinheim won the other berth from Matino with an 8-2 win over T&A San Marino as Dirk van’t Klooster collected three hits, two runs and two RBIs.


The German Baseball League got its 2009 season started earlier this month, and both regular season divisional champions recorded two-game sweeps in their respective inaugural series.

Defending North Division winners Solingen Alligators won a pair of games from the HSV Stealers. Solingen won the April 4 opener, 14-7, despite being outhit 16-11 by the Stealers. Dominik Wolf cracked a homer for the Alligators as Jens Cornelsen pitched five scoreless innings for the win. Solingen dominated the second game, registering an 8-0 shutout. Starter Enorbel Marquez-Ramirez and two relievers combined on a one-hitter for the Gators.

Last year’s South Division champion Heidenheim Heidekoepfe won two against the Haar Disciples. Heidenheim won the opener, 11-5, as starter Markus Winkler let in three runs over six innings. Ryan Lilly homered, scored twice and drove in two runs as Heidenheim won, 6-3, on April 5.


The eight teams in the Italian League’s First Division were slated to open the season Thursday, April 9, with a full slate of action. Games scheduled for Friday, April 10, were postponed after the Italian government proclaimed a national day of mourning in the wake of Abruzzo’s fatal earthquake.

One feature in the Italian League this season is the reduction of players with visas from non-European Union countries from five per team to four. The move is hoped to give more game experience to domestic players. Five Italian products must be on the field each game.

T&A San Marino won the Italian pennant last year, and look to be the team to beat again in 2009. San Marino has added Venezuelan Luis Ramirez, a right-handed fireballer, to their already-strong pitching staff. Another Venezuelan import, Carlos Duran, is expected to add speed and power.

Danesi Nattuno figures to be the prime challenger after adding former MLB pitcher Jeff Farnsworth, infielder Manny Alexander and outfielder Abraham Nunez to the roster.


The British National League will be leaner and (hopefully) meaner in 2009. The league has lopped its entire North Division from the schedule, leaving five teams for the April 19 openers.

The London Mets and Richmond Flames will meet in a doubleheader in a rematch of last season’s title game, which was won by the Mets, 11-4. The Mets dominated the 2008 campaign by winning 23 of 24 games by an average score of 10-2. In the other twinbill, the Croydon Pirates will take on the Hertfordshire Falcons. Herts won Britain’s AAA level championship last year before being invited to move up to the National League this year. The Bracknell Blazers will open play April 26.

This season, the British playoffs will use a double-elimination format among the top four teams in the regular season standings. The playoffs will be held the last weekend of August.


Baseball is on a roll in Korea. After winning the Gold Medal in last summer’s Olympic Games and reaching the title game of this spring’s World Baseball Classic, domestic interest in the game is at an all-time high in South Korea, demonstrated by sellout crowds at all four games April 4 for the 2009 Korea Baseball Organization season opener.

In all, 96,800 fans attended KBO Opening Day games, smashing the former record by over 13,000 turnstile clicks. The largest crowd of 30,500 in Seoul watched the Doosan Bears beat the Kia Tigers, 7-5. In Busan, 28,500 fans turned out to see the Lotte Giants slip past the Seoul Heroes, 3-2; the Hanwha Eagles walloped the hometown SK Wyverns, 8-2, in front of 27,800 spectators in Incheon (the first home opener sellout in Wyverns history); and another 10,000 observers watched the Samsung Lions take a 6-2 opening win over the LG Twins in Daegu, a game that was called a sellout although Daegu Stadium’s capacity is listed as 13,941.


Former Major League outfielder Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes swatted the 444th home run of his career in Japanese baseball Wednesday, April 8, tying him with Yomiuri Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima for 12th place on Japan’s all-time homer list. Rhodes’ three-run bomb helped propel the Orix Buffaloes to a 10-2 pounding of the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions.

Rhodes is beginning his 13th season in Nippon Professional Baseball after spending all or part of six seasons in MLB between 1990 and 1995. Prior to heading across the Pacific, the 40-year-old outfielder played for the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox. He is best remembered among American baseball fans for hitting three homers for the Cubs on Opening Day in 1994 off New York Mets ace Dwight Gooden.

Rhodes is currently the active leader in career home runs in Japan, but has a long way to go to catch Sadaharu Oh’s world record total of 868. Rhodes did tie Oh’s single season record of 55 homers while playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2001.


Three years after a humiliating 21-0 defeat by Yokohama in the final game of Japan’s Spring Koshien Tournament in Nishinomiya, Nagasaki’s Seiho High School defeated Iwate’s Hanamaki Higashi, 1-0, on April 2 at Koshien Stadium to win this year’s version of the event. It marks the first time a Nagasaki school has won a national championship.

The lion’s share of credit goes to pitcher Takeru Imamura, who allowed just one run in 44 innings of work in the 32-team tournament, including a shutout in the final game in which he scattered seven hits. The only run of the game came in the seventh inning, when Seiho’s Hirotoshi Hashimoto doubled in Kohei Shimazaki off Yusei Kikuchi.

Kikuchi allowed only three runs over 40 innings for Hanamaki Higashi, who were making their first-ever Koshien appearance.


After their proposal for a joint Olympic Games reinstatement bid was rebuffed by the International Softball Federation, the International Baseball Federation has decided to add women’s baseball to their request to have baseball brought back in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

According to the IBAF, over 30 of their 128 member federations have a full discipline for women’s baseball, although most all have combined baseball programs for boys and girls through at least age 10. The IBAF is also in the process of finalizing a committee of sports executives to work specifically on the growth of women’s baseball worldwide, and claims they have received very enthusiastic support from Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball.

The Women’s Baseball World Cup was held last year in Japan in front of enthusiastic crowds as the host country defeated Canada for the Gold Medal while the United States beat Australia to win the Bronze Medal. Over 500,000 young women play baseball around the world.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Springtime has arrived, which means several baseball leagues around the world are opening their 2009 regular seasons, including Major League Baseball.

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies will host the Atlanta Braves Sunday in the first game of the season, an honor that used to go to Cincinnati (home of baseball’s first fully professional team). All other MLB teams will begin playing for real Monday.

The regular season has already begun in other countries. In Taiwan, the President Lions topped the Brother Elephants, 5-1, in the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s lidlifter last Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 10,000 in Taipei Municipal Stadium.

The Mexican League is a week into their schedule with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Reynosa Broncos tied for the Northern Zone lead at 6-1, while the Quintana Roo Tigres and Yucatan Leones lead the LMB South with 5-2 records.

In Europe, the Spanish League is three weekends into their season, and the defending champion Puerto Cruz Marlins are unbeaten at 6-0 after sweeping Pamplona last Saturday.


This season, a new video system will be used in all 30 Major League Baseball parks to monitor umpires’ pitch calls. According to the New York Times, a new system called Zone Evaluation will be used to record a pitch’s position in flight from a pitcher’s hand to a catcher’s mitt 20 times, while also recording the umpire’s call of the pitch. Zone Evaluation will replace the QuesTec system, which had been used since 2001 in about one-third of MLB ballparks.

Baseball’s vice president for umpiring, Mike Port, told The Times, “It’s an upgrade from where we were. The umpires don’t want to miss a pitch any more than a batter wants to strike out.” Port added that the World Umpires Association union has approved the change.


When Gary Sheffield whacks the 500th home run of his major league career, it won’t be as a Detroit Tiger. The Detroit Tigers cut the 40-year-old outfielder last week, even though they’ll owe him a guaranteed $14 million salary for this season. The well-traveled Sheffield, who has been on an opening day roster every MLB season since 1989, signed a deal Friday with the New York Mets.

Sheffield struggled to a .225 batting average in 2008 with 19 homers and 57 RBIs. Lifetime, the Florida native is a .292 hitter with 499 homers, 251 stolen bases and 1,633 RBIs.


When Chan-Ho Park signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, it was because the world champions promised him a fair shot for a berth in their starting rotation. After a solid spring for the Phillies, the team proved as good as their word by penciling in Park as their fifth starter.

Park was 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 21.1 innings this spring. While he was a solid starter between 1994 and 2001, going 78-51 with a 3.74 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he has struggled since then, even spending most of 2007 in the minor leagues. Park was 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2008 prior to signing with Philadelphia in January.


ESPN reports dozens of players in the Dominican Republic are being kept there as part of a Major League Baseball probe into allegations of false identifications, bonus kickbacks and performance-enhancing drug smuggling. According to, MLB has officers in Latin countries working with the FBI on investigations “implicating the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals.”

The website claims “one MLB official estimates at there are more than 70 young players being detained in the Dominican and other countries.” The article says MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s office became “heavily involved” after White Sox director of player personnel David Wilder’s smuggling of cash into the USA led to an investigation proving kickbacks of bonus money for teenage prospects were paid to people including those serving as de facto agents for the prospects.

The Nationals paid a $1.4 million bonus in 2006 to prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez, but it was discovered the 19-year-old Gonzalez is really 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo. Nats GM Jim Bowden has since resigned, but the FBI is continuing its investigation into allegations Bowden skimmed money from Latin player bonuses.


A new movie slated for release this weekend depicts a Dominican baseball prospect making his debut in American minor league baseball. “Sugar” was to be shown Friday at theaters in New York and Los Angeles, with a nationwide release date of April 24.

“Sugar” is a fiction about 19-year-old pitcher Miguel “Sugar” Santos, who comes from the Dominican Republic to play for the Bridgeport Swing of the Class A Midwest League. It is his first trip outside his native country, and the film focuses on the cultural adjustments Latin prospects are expected to make when they come to America. While the film is about life in the minors, it is not a comedy like “Bull Durham” and there are no Annie Savoys in it. Thank God.


Whatever one thinks of straight-shooting Bobby Valentine, they can’t say he lacks confidence. Valentine is a former major league player and manager now entering the final year of his contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League. While he’s not sure of where he’ll be next year, he’d like a crack at changing the United States’ fortunes in the next World Baseball Classic.

Valentine said last week the first thing he’d do as manager of Team USA in 2013 is bring in players with more of a desire to win the event. “It seems like there’s a little more passion and a little more desire to do your best from the Japanese players,” Valentine said. He went on to say he would interview players prior to the next WBC to determine who would work harder to win the tournament.

Valentine, a former outfielder who managed the New York Mets to the 2000 National League pennant is in his sixth season with the Marines, who he led to a title in 2005. His contract with the team is reportedly worth $3.9 million this season, and is not expected back in 2010 because of the global economic crisis.


A 17-year-old high school girl made history by pitching against a men’s professional baseball team in Japan. Eri Yoshida, who throws a sidearm knuckleball, made her debut for the Kobe 9 Cruise of the independent Kansai League in a game against the Osaka Gold Villicanes at the Osaka Dome.

Yoshida, who was drafted and signed last winter by the first-year team, faced two batter in the ninth inning in front of 11.592 fans and curiosity-seekers at the 45,000-seat stadium. She walked the first batter she faced on four pitches and allowed a stolen base before she struck out the next batter swinging before being pulled from the contest, which was won by Kobe, 5-0.

Yoshida began playing baseball in the second grade, and wants to emulate Boston’s Tim Wakefield as a successful knuckleball pitcher. Until now, no woman had ever played against a men’s team in Japan, although there was a women’s professional league there in 1950 and 1951.


The 2009 European Cup got underway in Italy last week, but not without concerns about weather and field conditions. While there were no problems getting one group of six teams going in Nettuno or Anzio, poor field conditions forced a change in format in Matino.

The six-team pool in Nettuno and Anzio are Spain’s Puerto Cruz Marlins, Belgium’s Antwerp Royal Greys, Germany’s Regensburg Legionaere, France’s Rouen Huskies, Holland’s Amsterdam Pirates and host Danesi Nettuno. Rouen won their first three games, including an 8-5 shocker over Dutch champion Amsterdam, to take the early lead in round-robin play.

Things didn’t get off to such a smooth start in Matino, where a sloppy field led to cancellation of first-day games and a reconfiguration of competition among their six teams. Instead of a straight round-robin format, the pool was split into two groups with three teams each. Group A consists of Italian League champs T&A San Marino, Spain’s FC Barcelona, and AVG Draci Brno of the Czech Republic; while Group B includes France’s Senart Templiers, Holland’s Corendon Kinheim and Italy’s Fortitudo Bologna.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to June’s Euro Cup Final Four.


Although last year’s top two teams are in Italy for this week’s European Cup competition the French Elite League began its 2009 regular season last weekend as the remaining six teams swung into action.

Derek Malikian led the way as Montigny topped Claremont-Ferrand 10-2 in their opening contest. Malikian, who played for Solingen in the German League in 2008, stroked four hits for Montigny, including a home run. Claremont-Ferrand came back to earn a split by winning the second game, also by a 10-2 score. Former Phillies farmhand Ben Pfinsgraff was the winning pitcher for the Arvernes. In other French League action, Stade Toulousain and La Guerche split a two-game series, while Savigny and Barracudas did likewise in their two-game set.


Major League Baseball continues its drive to make inroads in Europe this spring with a series of seven tryout camps across the continent. Players from Sweden to Italy will be auditioning for a chance to attend the 2009 MLB European Academy at the Italian Olympic Training Center in Tirrenia from August 11-29. The first tryout camp will be held April 26 in Stockholm, Sweden, followed by a one-day trial in Rouen, France on April 29 and another in Tirrenia, Italy on April 30. In May, tryout camps will take place in Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Amsterdam, Holland; and Bad Homburg, Germany.

The various tryout camps will be run by staff members of MLB Europe as well as members of the Major League’s Central Scouting Bureau, although there will be no scouts on hand in Stockholm. In past years, the European Academy has resulted in 28 players signing contracts with MLB organizations. The tryouts will be held for players ranging in age from 15 to 18 who have been nominated by their respective national baseball federations.


According to Matt Smith from Baseball Great Britain, the International Olympic Committee will be considering the reinstatement of seven sports in time for the 2016 Summer Games, including baseball. The IOC will consider the seven sports at an August meeting in Berlin, with five of those being cut from further consideration prior to the IOC Congress in Copenhagen in October.

The original plan was for all seven sports to be voted upon in Copenhagen after presentations were made in Berlin, but the IOC decided to cut the final list from seven to two prior to holding its Congress in Denmark after the subject came up at an IOC executive meeting last month in Denver.

There was an appeal for a joint bid between baseball and softball interests, but International Softball Federation president Don Porter turned his nose up at the idea.