Nagoya Dome Tournament (Mar.26 to 30)
The opening celebration tournament at the Nagoya Dome kicked off rather quietly. The turnout was in the beginning sparse. Fortunately, the final game between the home team, Chunichi Dragons and the Hanshin Tigers attracted 31 thousand people. The Tigers became the tournament champion defeating the Dragons 5 to 2. The Giants were already eliminated in the first round of this tournament. All exhibition games were wrapped up with the end of this event.

Osaka Dome Tournament (Mar.19 to 23)
12 teams took part to celebrate the opening of the Osaka Dome. The first game was held between last year's champion teams of both leagues, Orix Blue Wave and Tokyo Giants. Ichiro was on base twice and batted in a run. Meanwhile, Central League MVP Hideki Matsui blasted a 3 run homer. Kazuhiro Kiyohara made news too by hitting the ball into slot near the ceiling of the dome. The ball never came down. In the second round of the tournament, Luis Santos, the new player from the Dominican Republic smashed a 3 run. The Giants won again. The Giants won the next game too, and Kazuhiro Kiyohara helped with a homerun. The Giants and Seibu Lions competed in the final match. It was a close game of 3 to 2, and the Giants won. Kiyohara was selected the Most Valuable Player of the commemorative tournament. The entire team earned 7 million yen for the victory.

Kiyohara as a Giant in the first exhibition game
Kazuhiro Kiyohara smacked a homerun to the right stand of Miyazaki Stadium on Feb.23 in the 9th inning. Fans were overjoyed even though the Giants were scoring less than the opposing team, the Hiroshima Carp. The result of the game was a 7 to 2 win for the Carp.

First exhibition game takes off
Last year's champion team, Orix Blue Wave played against Chunichi Dragons at Miyako Island in Okinawa on Feb.22, It's the first of the exhibition games that will take place until the start of the season in April. One sixth of the islanders packed the stadium, mainly to see Ichiro play. There were 9000 spectators. Although this was only an exhibition game, it was a dramatic one. Korean pitcher Sun Donil (according to Japanese pronounciation), who was a star player in his country, pitched from the 8th inning with the Dragons taking the lead. In the 9th inning, Soh Taguchi made it to first base. Ichiro hit the ball to the outfield. During that hit, Taguchi came home to win the game. Ichiro certainly playes well at the right timing.

Exibition Game Schedule
Feb.22 Orix Blue Wave vs. Chunichi Dragons
Feb.23 Tokyo Giants vs. Hiroshima Carp
Feb.28 Tokyo Giants vs. Daiei Hawks
Mar. 1Tokyo Giants vs. Daiei Hawks
Hanshin Tigers vs. Seibu Lions
Hiroshima Carp vs. Yakult Swallows
Nippon Ham Fighters vs. Yokohama Bay Stars
Chunichi Dragons vs. Orix Blue Wave

More games until March 30, 1997.


High TV rating for Giants charity game
The game between the "red" team and "white" team of the Giants on Feb.16 received a TV rating of 16.7 percent. A record breaking 40,000 fans packed the Miyazaki ball park. It was a great game to watch too! All the Giants stars were there. Last year's MVP, Hideki Matsui blasted a homerun from the top pitcher Masaki Saitoh. Masumi Kuwata who was out the entire season last year recovering from an arm surgery, pitched in a game for the first time in a year and 8 months. The first batter he faced was high school buddy Kazuhiro Kiyohara. Kiyohara hit the ball to the center. At that moment, the TV rating surged to 21.7 percent!

Giants practice game attracts big crowd
The Giants held their first practice game at the ball park in Miyazaki Prefecture where the team is holding their spring training. Manager Shigeo Nagashima asked the crowd himself that day through the microphone to stay on to watch a practice game. It indeed attracted an incredible number of people. That's 38,000 ! Giants' new star Kazuhiro Kiyohara slammed a homerun out of the ball park, so it was worth the visit.

Dragons skipper loses his beloved
Senichi Hoshino, who is known for his hot temper, broke into tears in front of the public on Feb.2. That was at his wife's funeral. Nobody has ever seen the former star pitcher of the Chunichi Dragons look so helpless. His wife passed away early in the morning on Jan.31 from leukemia at age 51. It was the day before the start of baseball camp. Hoshino, regardless of his wife's death supervised his team's training on the first day of camp. He tried to show no sign of this tragedy, so that the players can concentrate on their practice.
Michiyo's Note: If you would like to send a letter of encouragement to Hoshino-san, click HERE .

Baseball camp schedule
The 12 pro baseball teams are scattered all over Japan and abroad to start off their team training from February 2. Here is a list of their camp sites.

Orix Blue WaveMiyako Island, Okinawa (Feb.1-28)
Nippon Ham FightersNago-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-28)
Seibu LionsHaruno-cho, Kochi (Feb.1-28)
Kintestsu Buffaloes Saipan (Feb.1-12)
Hyuga-city, Miyazaki (Feb.13 to Mar.1)
Chiba Lotte MarinesPioria, USA (Feb.1-15)
Kagoshima-city, Kagoshima (Feb.19 to Mar.3)
Fukuoka Daiei HawksKochi-city, Kochi (Feb.1-24)

Tokyo GiantsMiyazaki-city, Miyazaki (Feb.1-27)
Chunichi DragonsNagoya Stadium (Feb.1-8)
Chatan, Okinawa (Feb.9-Mar.7)
Hiroshima Toyo CarpOkinawa-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-15)
Nichinan, Miyazaki (Feb.16-Mar.5)
Yakult SwallowsYuma,(USA (Feb.1-19)
Miyazaki (Feb.25-Mar.5)
Yokohama Bay Stars Ginowan-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-28)
Hanshin TigersAki-city, Kochi (Feb.1-28)