Hello YSW readers (that means you mom)....
I'm in the midst of some big changes these days. I'm setting up life between the US and Japan right now and it's a major undertaking. Those who keep living space on both the East and West Coasts of the United States are generally referred to as "bi-coastal" although I'm not sure what nomenclature would be chosen for my situation.
At any rate, I will be headed back to the friendly confines of New York City in early August, keeping a place in Akita City. During the next 2-3 weeks I'm afraid my blogging will be inconsistent, although I should be able to find enough access to both baseball and the internet to update here often. If I end up AWOL for several days without an update, rest assured that I will be back into the full swing of things by the 2nd week of August as a full time blogging maniac again.
Thanks for your patience and for always supporting what I do here. Keep checking back!!
International Man of Mystery
So it's in the books. Yuki Saito has remained unbeaten in his last 20-something starts dating back to his senior year in high school. The Japanese sensation didn't bring his A-game to Durham, but it was still enough to put the Japanese collegians on the verge of their first series win on US soil in 19 meetings. After the WBC victory, Japan will be on a high if the young fellas can repeat their success in North Carolina.
Before talking about this contest, it's a good idea to look back at what's transpired in the two prior games. The first game saw the US come out strong, winning 7-2
behind Pedro Alvarez' red hot bat. Shota Oba wasn't able to put together a very good start to the game and allowed the US to jump all over him for a big 5 run inning. That was all she wrote. The Japanese club likes to play small ball and it's highly unlikely that they will pull off a comeback from multiple runs. Ahead by five, the US effectively ended the game early, despite some very nice pitching by Tomoyuki Kaida. The next day featured Keio University ace, Mikinori Kato against Brian Matusz. The Japanese pulled off a tight 3-2 victory
despite giving away 6 outs on 4 caught stealing and 2 sac bunts. Kato outdueled Matusz before handing it over to the very promising freshman power pitcher Shinya Muramatsu. Muramatsu struck out three in 2.1 innings and looked dominant in doing so.
That brings us to Saito. Game Three was highly anticipated and fans from all parts collected to get a glimpse of the now famous young hurler. The buzz around Daisuke Matsuzaka generates a greater appeal for Yuki Saito and it was evident in the media coverage from both countries. Saito showed poor command of his pitches throughout the contest, frequently falling behind hitters, and also seemed to have lost some velocity on his array of pitches. He frequently had the gun in the high 70s and mid-80s during the game and nothing looked "plus" for the most part. To his credit, Saito has always been businesslike on the mound and never lost his cool. He was noticably bothered when runners were on base, however, and looked a bit out of character on occasion. Nevertheless, the pitching line looks very good considering all the factors in throwing off his regular routine. He earned the 2-1 win
thanks to outstanding relief in innings 7-9, capped by another dominating Muramatsu outing. Muramatsu struck out three in an inning and a third. Impressive.
Yuki Saito Watch got a little boost thanks to the good people at NBC17
in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill. Their link has driven many of you here. Please stick around to browse the background of this fine young pitcher. A comprehensive look at his background is found in the right margin, listed under "Biography". Thanks for reading.
Finally, for those of you interested in watching these games, live or otherwise, you can head to the USA Baseball homepage and check out the link to "schedule"
. The games are available on live webcast, and presumably will be available in recorded for as well. Here's Saito's game.
Welcome to America
July 4th kicks off the 36th edition of the US/Japan Collegiate Baseball Games
. The team of talented young Japanese players has arrived in the US and commenced training in South Carolina prior to the official contest, held in Durham, NC. There are 5 games altogether, and we should get a look at a variety of outstanding players from both sides of the world. Of course, the most heralded player among this group is our own Yuki Saito, who figures to be the Game One starter on July 4th.
My latest Baseball Prospectus article
gives a complete rundown of the players on the Japanese roster, including a brief scouting report. It's subscription only, so you'll have to invest a little of your hard earned cash to get the full details, but I promise it's worth it if you love to read about baseball. I'll give you the rosters of both teams here, as available via normal means of information gathering and throw in a sprinkle of extra information on several of the key Japanese players. First, Team USA:
2007 USA Baseball National Team: Roster
|25 ||Alvarez, Pedro||IF||L/R||6-2||212||So.||Vanderbilt||New York, NY|
|28 ||Berry, Ryan||RHP||R/R||6-1||195||Fr.||Rice||Humble, TX|
|15 ||Danks, Jordan||OF||L/R||6-5||205||So.||Texas||Round Rock, TX|
|8 ||Espinosa, Danny||IF||S/R||6-0||185||So.||Long Beach State||Santa Ana, CA|
|5 ||Flaherty, Ryan||UT||L/R||6-3||200||So.||Vanderbilt||Portland, ME|
|11 ||Forsythe, Logan||IF/OF||R/R||6-0||195||So.||Arkansas||Memphis, TN|
|29 ||Hamilton, Jeremy||IF||L/L||6-0||180||So.||Wright State||Cincinnati, OH|
|14 ||Hunter, Brett||RHP||R/R||6-2||190||So.||Pepperdine||Moorpark, CA|
|36 ||Kelly, Joe||RHP||R/R||6-1||165||Fr.||UC Riverside||Corona, CA|
|6 ||Kieschnick, Roger||OF||L/R||6-3||200||So.||Texas Tech||Rockwall, TX|
|40 ||Lynn, Lance||RHP||R/R||6-5||260||So.||Mississippi||Brownsburg, IN|
|17 ||Matusz, Brian||LHP||L/L||6-4||180||So.||San Diego||Cave Creek, AZ|
|18 ||Medica, Tommy||C||R/R||6-1||190||Fr.||Santa Clara||San Jose, CA|
|9 ||Mercer, Jordy||RHP/IF||R/R||6-3||192||So.||Oklahoma State||Taloga, OK|
|37 ||Minor, Mike||LHP||L/L||6-3||175||Fr.||Vanderbilt||Chapel Hill, TN|
|35 ||Paramore, Petey||C||S/R||6-2||195||So.||Arizona State||Allen, TX|
|4||Romanski, Josh||LHP/OF||L/L||6-0||180||So.||San Diego||Corona, CA|
|44 ||Ross, Tyson||RHP||R/R||6-5||215||So.||California||Oakland, CA|
|7 ||Satterwhite, Cody||RHP||R/R||6-4||205||So.||Mississippi||Jackson, MS|
|10 ||Smoak, Justin||IF||S/L||6-3||200||So.||South Carolina||Goose Creek, SC|
|24 ||Thompson, Jacob||RHP||R/R||6-6||190||So.||Virginia||Danville, VA|
|34 ||Wallace, Brett||IF||L/R||6-1||245||So.||Arizona State||Sonoma, CA|
|26||Mike Weathers||Field Manager||Long Beach State|
|16||Rob Cooper||Assistant/First Base Coach||Wright State|
|27||Bill Kinneberg||Assistant/Pitching Coach||Utah|
|3||Mark Scalf||Assistant/Third Base Coach||UNC-Wilmington|
This is a very talented group of ballplayers. Many current Major Leaguers have played in this series of games in the past and you'll be getting a very good look at some of the future stars by checking in on these games. The same can be said of the Japanese group. The NPB will welcome a handful of the graduating seniors on the Japanese roster, and several of the underclassmen sure to be drafted in the near future. Yuki Saito may be one of a very small handful to attempt a jump directly to the Majors, so here's your chance to get a very early look at what he brings to the table. Tell your friends that you saw the next Daisuke Matsuzaka way back when...
2007 Japan Collegiate All-Stars: Roster
|16||Tomohisa NEMOTO||P||L/L||5-10||173||Senior||YOKOHAMA SHOKA UNIV.|
|17||Shota OBA||P||R/R||6-0||171||Senior||TOYO UNIVERSITY|
|28||Mikinori KATO||P||L/L||5-10||167||Senior||KEIO UNIVERISTY|
|11||Shingo TATSUMI||P||R/R||6-0||156||Junior||KINKI UNIVERSITY|
|18||Ryo SAKAKIBARA||P||R/R||5-9||151||Junior||KANSAI KOKUSAI UNIVERISTY|
|21||Tomoyuki KAIDA||P||L/L||5-10||171||Sophomore||KOMAZAWA UNIVERSITY|
|19||Shinya MURAMATSU||P||R/R||6-2||171||Freshman||KOKUGAKUIN UNIVERSITY|
|20||Yuki SAITO||P||R/R||5-9||164||Freshman||WASEDA UNIVERSITY|
|6||Takeshi HOSOYAMADA||C||R/R||5-10||169||Junior||WASEDA UNIVERSITY|
|25||Shota OHNO||C||R/R||5-10||169||Junior||TOYO UNIVERSITY|
|1||Tetsuya KOKUBO||IF||R/R||5-9||171||Senior||AOYAMA GAKUIN UNIVERSITY|
|3||Shiro MORI||IF||R/R||5-9||167||Senior||KINKI UNIVERSITY|
|7||Takashi OGINO||IF||R/R||5-8||160||Senior||KANSAI GAKUIN UNIVERSITY|
|2||Noriharu YAMAZAKI||IF||R/R||5-10||169||Junior||YOKOHAMA SHOKA UNIVERSITY|
|4||Hiroki UEMOTO||IF||R/R||5-8||151||Junior||WASEDA UNIVERSITY|
|27||Hiroki NAKAZAWA||IF||R/R||6-0||176||Junior||KOKUSAI BUDO UNIVERSITY|
|5||Ryoji NAKATA||IF||L/R||5-7||256||Sophomore||ASIA UNIVERSITY|
|26||Shota WAIZUMI||IF||S/R||5-10||167||Sophomore||HOSEI UNIVERSITY|
|8||Sho ARANAMI||OF||L/R||5-10||160||Senior||TOKAI UNIVERSITY|
|10||Yukinaga TANAKA||OF||R/R||5-10||182||Senior||WASEDA UNIVERSITY|
|9||Takahiro IWAMOTO||OF||L/L||6-0||182||Junior||ASIA UNIVERSITY|
|24||Keijiro MATSUMOTO||OF||L/L||5-11||167||Junior||WASEDA UNIVERSITY|
|50||Masao KAWARAI||Head Coach|
|51||Noritsugu MATSUOKA||Assistant Coach|
|52||Atsuyoshi OHTAKE||Assistant Coach|
|53||Tetsuo YAMAJI||Assistant Coach|
A few of the players to watch, outside Saito, are as follows: Pitchers
Shota Oba (Toyo University) - Pro Comparison: Kazumi Saito
Shingo Tatsumi (Kinki University) - Tall, lanky righty threw a no-hitter this season
Shinya Muramatsu (Kokugakuin University) - Powerful freshman with huge potentialBatters
Takeshi Hosoyamada (Waseda University) - Saito's catcher has MLB potential
Tetsuya Kokubo (Aoyama Gakuin U.) - Best infielder in 2007 draft, Japanese Pedroia?
Sho Aranami (Tokai University) - speedy CF lost to Saito in University Finals
Takahiro Iwamoto (Asia University) - power hitter, but may not hit for avg.
All of these players have the potential to impact the outcome of the series, but I picked a few I thought you might like to watch. Ultimately, any of the roster guys could be a hero (or a goat). You'll have to watch to see for yourself. One housekeeping note....
The Japanese players had a tune up exhibition
against the Columbia Blowfish
of Columbia, SC after arriving. A combination of Shota Oba and Mikinori Kato kept the Blowfish hitless through 5 innings, until Yuki Saito arrived on the scene for the 6th. Saito didn't seem right prior to the game, sweating and looking pale, and it showed in the results. He coughed up a 3-0 lead allowing a leadoff walk, a double, and two RBI singles. He pitched two innings and gave up 4 runs. In the end, Saito was saved a loss by his teammates, as they managed to scratch a run to tie it in front of 100 credentialed media, there primarily to watch our boy. It was one of the B-quality starters on the roster that lost the game, as Ryo Sakakibara of Kansai International University allowed a 3-run, walk off homer to Greg Phelps to end the exhibition. Let's hope we see the real Yuki Saito on Independence Day....