New woman league president
Former Japanese Ambassador Sumiko Takahara had been officially nominated Central League president on Mar. 4. She is the first woman ever to take a leading post in the Japanese baseball world. Takahara actually made headlines when she became the first woman appointed to a ministerial post. She was the head of the Economic Planning Agency. She is replacing Hiromori Kawashima who had been appointed by Ichiro Yoshikuni to take over as Pro Baseball Commissioner. 81-year old Yoshikuni decided to retire due to health reason.

Exhibition games begin
The Giants played their first exhibition game on Mar. 1. Yoshinobu Takahashi, who was the Giants first pick in the recent draft already astonished fans with his good play in the outfield. Slugger, Hideki Matsui, smashed the ball over a distance of 120 meters. Still, the Giants lost 1 to 4 against the Marines. Ichiro of the Blue Wave had another good day with 3 base hits.

On Feb. 28, 10 teams of the Central and Pacific League played their first exhibition games. It excludes the Hawks and the Giants. The Blue Wave and the Fighters had a great battle. Pacific League leading hitter Ichiro slugged a homerun plus 2 base hits. It was a 14 to 12 game for the Blue Wave. A new member of the Tigers, Dave Hansen who was formerly played for the Chicago Cubs, batted in 3 runs, and rookie Tomoya Tsuboi got on base 4 times during the game. The team defeated the Lions 6 to 4.

Franco with the Marines in Arizona
A Feb. 19 contribution from Eric Bohman
Julio Franco made his return last week with the Chiba Lotte Marines. Franco said, "I like Japan. I have been there five times and lots of friends there." The Marines started out having him field at second with veteran Kohichi Hori. More likely, Franco will be seeing some time at first base since the Marines let go of last year's first baseman Jason Thompson this week. The 27 year-old Thompson batted .247 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs last season. He had come over last year as part of the Padres-Marines agreement, which became the focus of the Irabu controversy last year. That brings the Marines number of "foreign players" down to four, which is the league maxium this season.

Swallows and Marines in Arizona
A contribution from Eric Bohman
The unseason wet weather has made it difficult for both the Swallows and Marines to train here. On February 8th it has rained much of the day. The Chiba Lotte Marines are scheduled for a scrimmage game on Wednesday, while the Yakult Swallows will have their annual charity inter-squad game on Sunday, the 15th. The Swallows are celebrating their 20th year training in Yuma. With Masato Yoshii signing with the Mets and Terry Bross leaving the team, the Swallows will have some holes to fill in their rotation. Mark Acre from the Oakland A's is expected to grab a spot. Standing tall at 6' 9" (206 cm) the right hander brings definite big league experience. Another new addition is Lyle Mouton from the Chicago White Sox. The career outfielder has been working intensely on his fielding to take over the first base position from the departed Jim Tatum. In batting practice, Mouton has been impressive. He launched several shots beyond the outfield fence to all fields. Outfielder Dwayne "Taro" Hosey, back for a second year with the Swallows, has been helping Mouton in making the adjusts to playing in Japan and has assured Manager Nomura that Mouton will be able to adapt. The Chiba Lotte Marines have been awaiting the return of Julio Franco, who is scheduled to report to camp this weekend. It will be Franco's second time with the team after coming over to Japan during the Major League Players strike in 1994-95. Another new addition to this year's team will be 28 year old Joe Crawford. The right hander told me that he is thankful for the opportunity and has been informed that he will be in the starting rotation.

Baseball camp schedule
The 12 pro baseball teams are scattered all over Japan and abroad to start off their team training from February 1. Here is a list of their camp sites.

Yakult SwallowsYuma,(USA (Feb.1-21)
Miyazaki (Feb.23-Mar.3)
Yokohama Bay Stars Ginowan-city, Okinawa (Feb.1 to Mar.5)
Hiroshima Toyo CarpOkinawa-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-15)
Nichinan, Miyazaki (Feb.16-Mar.5)
Tokyo GiantsMiyazaki-city, Miyazaki (Feb.1-28)
Hanshin TigersAki-city, Kochi (Feb.1-27)
Chunichi DragonsChatan, Okinawa (Feb.1-Mar.2)

Seibu LionsHaruno-cho, Kochi (Feb.1-27)
Orix Blue WaveMiyako Island, Okinawa (Feb.1-26)
Kintetsu Buffaloes Saipan (Feb.1-12)
Hyuga-city, Miyazaki (Feb.13-27)
Nippon Ham FightersNago-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-27)
Fukuoka Daiei HawksKochi-city, Kochi (Feb.1-27)
Chiba Lotte MarinesPioria, USA (Feb.1-17)
Kagoshima-city, Kagoshima (Feb.21 to Mar.4)