Giants' win first Suntory Cup
The Tokyo Giants' defeated the Kintetsu Buffaloes on Mar. 28, 4 to 3 in the final game of the first interleague exhibition games. The Giants became the first Suntory Cup champion and was awarded 10 million yen for the victory.

Seibu Dome's kick off event
On Mar. 19, the Seibu Dome was officially opened with a game by the Seibu Lions. Basically, the former stadium got a roof attached on top of it. The players divided into 2 teams. That attracted 38,000 spectators. It's probably the first time the Lions' had such a big turnout for a practice game. Rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka was given the honor of closing the game with just one pitch.

Suntory Cup takes off
For the first time, an exhibition game series called Suntory Cup is held. From Mar. 13 to 28, games are played against Central and Pacific League teams. On the opening day, Giant's Kazuhiro Kiyohara surprised fans with a grand slam. It was rumored that a knee injury he's sustained during camp was serious. But he's showed he's recovering. The Giants defeated the Daiei Hawks 7 to 1.

Shinjo pitches for the Tigers
In an exhibition game against the Giants in Kumamoto Prefecture, a player known as an outfielder, Shinjo of the Tigers'pitched. Even though it was only an inning, he did well. He returned to his home position--to the outfield after that. Another former outfielder pitched too. Tigers' new manager, Katsuya Nomura has been working on converting players positions since he assumed the post.

Ichiro's exhibition game with the Mariners
Although an exhibition game, Ichiro got to play in the US Major League for the first time on Mar.4. He, with the Seattle Mariners, faced San Diego Padres. He made it to first base the first time at base over an error. And he stole 2nd. He had his first base hit later. For Ichiro, who is in the U.S. only for spring training--it was an exciting day.

Exhibition games open
On Feb.28, the first exhibition games of 1999 spring were played. The biggest attention went to the game between Hanshin Tigers and Seibu Lions. The reason was obviously rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka. He attracted a full house. Matsuzaka finished the 1st inning smoothly. The second inning though was tough. He was homered by Yutaka Taiho. He had to pitch with runners on 1st and 2nd bases and no out. But it was only 1 run that he lost. Another exhibition game star that day was Giants' Hideki Matsui. He changed his batting form slightly, putting more weight in the back. That proved effective that he smashed a 3 run homer against the Hiroshima Carp.

Ichiro training in the U.S.
5 time leading hitter, Ichiro of the Orix BlueWave joined the Seattle Mariners in spring training on Feb. 23. It's in Phoenix Arizona. He wore the Mariners' uniform and played catch with Ken Griffey Jr. Ichiro also joined Griffey and Alex Rodriguez in free batting. Ichiro is known to have strong desire to play in the U.S.

Matsuzaka showered with chocolate
15,000 fans visited Seibu Lions' spring camp on Feb. 13--the largest crowd this spring. Their motive was no doubt, to get a glimpse of rising star, Daisuke Matsuzaka. To protect Matsuzaka, another person wore his uniform embroidered with number 18 to fool the fans. Matsuzaka is said to have received 5000 packages of Valentine chocolate. Since there is no way he can consume them all, he decided to get most of them away to charity.
Michiyo's Note:
Matsuzaka is the number one star in Japan today--even though he hasn't proved himself yet in professional baseball games. Matsuzaka is covered on TV sports news more than anybody else.

BayStars parade again
A day before spring camp--Jan.31, the BayStars were the stars again. In Ginowan city, Okinawa, the 98 champion team went down 1 kilometer on a motorcade and was cheered on by 30,000 fans. It's one third of the city's population.

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.

Yokohama Bay Stars Ginowan-city, Okinawa (Feb.1 to Feb. 28)
Chunichi DragonsChatan, Okinawa (Feb.1-Mar.4)
Tokyo GiantsMiyazaki-city, Miyazaki (Feb.1-27)
Guam (Feb.1-7)
Yakult SwallowsYuma,USA (Feb.1-19)
Miyazaki (Feb.23-27)
Hiroshima Toyo CarpOkinawa-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-12)
Nichinan, Miyazaki (Feb.1-26)
Hanshin TigersAki-city, Kochi (Feb.1-26)

Seibu LionsHaruno-cho, Kochi (Feb.1-Mar.3)
Nippon Ham FightersNago-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-28)
Orix Blue WaveMiyako Island, Okinawa (Feb.1-26)
Fukuoka Daiei HawksKochi-city, Kochi (Feb.1-28)
Kintetsu Buffaloes Saipan (Feb.1-12)
Hyuga-city, Miyazaki (Feb.14-Mar.3)
Chiba Lotte MarinesKagoshima (Feb.1-Mar.1)