A Beginners Guide to the NPB: Nippon Ham-Fighters

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Welcome to トーキング・ヤング・オーストラリア (Talking Baseball Australia) As we are Turning Japanese! 

Welcome to our first look at the Big Leagues in Japan the Nippon Professional (NPB) which we plan on covering a lot in season 2017! In Japan the league is known as Nippon Yakyu Kiko, which we finally last season found out why our good mate on twitter Yakyu Night Owl calls himself that.

The League consists of 12 teams split into two divisions (Central League and the Pacific League), with the Tokyo Giants (Often called the New York Yankees of Asia) historically the most successful team winning 22 titles.

 

So who are the teams and what are their colours, mascots etc? Well buckle in for this 12 part series over the 12 days as we take a look at all 12 NPB teams.

Let’s rewind to get you up to speed and look back at the 2016 Japan Series – The World Series of Japan between the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Hiroshima Carp. Check out this epic review of the Japan Series (in English).

Today, it’s the defending champions to get us started!

Team 1 / 12

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Nippon-Ham Fighters

The current Champions of the NPB the Nippon-Ham Fighters are undoubtably become more famous this year because of their star player,  Shohei Otani.

Star Player – Shohei Otani 

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This kid is being talked about as the next Babe Ruth. He is a pitcher who touches 100 Mph and Rakes with the bat. They believe he could sign and MLB contract with a value of upwards of 300 million dollars (US). Two schools of thoughts are he could play in the American League and be a starting pitcher and DH on in the 4 games between starts. He could also potentially be a position player and come in as a closer. Or of course play in the National League as a pitcher who dominates.

Otani is expected to play again in 2017 for the Fighter-Hams, although their has been much hype of him heading to America to play. The other reason he will stay in Japan is because essentially as the rules change the kick back an MLB team has to give the Fighter-Hams dramatically increases next season. Also, Otani can make a truckload more money holding off, but he’s not a flashy guy and in a recent interview said he plays Baseball to help people who are having tough times in life, cheer up by watching him play, even if for only a few hours.

Can the kid play both ways in MLB? Currently how his game is structured is that every Japanese team has Monday’s off. So Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday he DH’s (Important to not NPB teams work off a 6 man rotation). Saturday is his off day prepping for his start and he starts on the mound every Sunday. It’s important to note on Sunday’s the team (who are in a DH league) waive the right to a DH and let him pitch, because he’s the best hitter on the team (and pitcher).

He only DH’d last season, though he’s also been scouted as a Right Fielder, so the option to play him in Right and close is possible.

In 2016 doing this he put up some amazing numbers in the NPB.

Pitching: He went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA from 21 starts.

Hitting: .322 Average from 323 At Bats. 22 Home Runs and 67 RBI’s.

Check out some of his highlights:

Now – back to the team.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham-Fighters originally were a Tokyo Based team and played in the WBC venue the Tokyo Dome until 2003 before relocating to Sapporo.

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As mentioned the Team are the defending champions of the NPB and have previously won the Japan Series in 1962 & 2006. Like most teams in Asia, the team is owned by a corporation and the Ham-Fighters are owned by a meat packing company called Nippon Ham.

The Kit

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Cap  Logo                                             Away Jersey                            Home Jersey 

 

The Stadium 

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Sapporo Stadium is home to the Nippon Ham-Fighters and packs in just over 40,000 fans for Baseball. It’s a multi-purspose venue that is also home to Soccer games (including the 2002 World Cup) and will be a venue for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The Fighting-Hams open up their season on March 31st against the Seibu Lions.

Watch a game?

The Best way to get there from Australia is to fly into Tokyo. From Tokyo you can either fly up to Sapporo or take a Bullet Train.

Thanks for taking the time to read this! You can always reach me on twitter @paulmorgs or via @tbaustralia. Tomorrow we take a look at the Hiroshima Carps!

Until then!