Rhodes joins Giants
It was confirmed on Dec 25 that 3 time home run title winner Tuffy Rhodes will play for the Giants. He won a 2 year deal for an annual income of 5 million dollars. He will wear number 20. It's the same number he wore for the Buffaloes he played for since 1996. His deal with the Buffaloes broke off in November.

Yankees to open 2004 season in Tokyo
It's official! On Dec 18, it was announced the NY Yankees will play 2 season openers at the Tokyo Dome. They will face Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The dates are March 30 and 31. This means, for the first time in 2 years, Hideki Matsui will play at the Tokyo Dome which was his home ground for about 10 years. For the Yankees its, the first time in 49 years to play as a team in Japan. Prior to the official matches, the team will play exhibition games against the Tigers and the Giants.

Korean home run king joins Marines
On Dec 16, South Korean slugger Lee Seung Yeop formally announced his deal with the Chiba Lotte Marines. He was accompanied by his beautiful wife. He signed a 2 year contract for an estimated 500 million yen. Lee hit 56 home runs last season, breaking the record held by Sadaharu Oh. He was initially though to have sought a contract with a US Major League team but it seemed he did not get a deal he wished for.

Otsuka signs with Padres
Akinori Otsuka has joined the San Diego Padres with a 2 year deal of 1.85 million dollars of Dec 11. The 31 year old pitcher joined the Buffaloes in 1997. He contributed as a closer. He also played for the Dragons.

Little Matsui joins Mets
Kazuo Matsui who played for the Seibu Lions' has been this off-season's most attention getter. And he announced just before departing to the US on Dec 8 that he has decided to join the New York Mets. There were speculations that 4 US Major League teams approached him. On Dec 10, Matsui signed a 3 year contract for an estimated 20.1 million dollars. He will wear number 25. The news conference was also attended by NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Two former Japanese Mets officially join Pacific League
Tsuyoshi Shinjo who was with the NY Mets held a press conference to officially announce that he's a member of the Fighters in Sapporo Dome on Dec 3. Although the event was not open to the public, since there were so many fans flocking to the stadium, the organizers decided to let them in. There were 2000 seated in the stands. He showed his new uniform. Meanwhile, Satoru Komiyama who did not play a whole year after leaving the Mets gave a press conference on the same day. He's returning to his former team the Chiba Lotte Marines. He said he was giving up on playing again and finds it a miracle that the Marines offered to sign him to the team.

Kokubo is a Giant but Hawks players upset
Hiroki Kokubi showed off his new uniform at a news conference on Nov 10. It's a number 6 on the Giants uniform. He said that he was ready to start his 2nd baseball life. Meanwhile, his former teammates are so angry for the Hawks releasing Kokubo that they plan to boycott their victory trip to Hawaii.

Japan team wins berth to Athens Olympic Games
Japan won all 3 games held at Sapporo Dome. On Nov 5, it defeated China 13 to 1. Starter Koji Uehara of the Giants struck out 11. Then the next day, Daisuke Matsuzakao the Lions pitched well to beat Taiwan 9 to 0. And the final day, Japan faced South Korea. Tsuyoshi Wada of the Hawks started and shut the rival out with the help of a closure. By clinching the Asian Baseball Championships which also served as the Olympic Games preliminary, Japan secured a berth for next year's Games. Taiwan which came in 2nd also won a birth.

Kokubo to leave the Hawks
The Hawks' Hiroki Kokubo announced on Nov 3 together with the owner of the Hawks that he is joining the Giants. The former Pacific League homer run king and RBI king said that he was hoping to play with the Giants since last year. And the Hawks owner Tadashi Nakauchi said Kokubo is to be released to the Giants without charge. This year, Kokubo could not play any game with the Hawks as he tore his ligament in his right knee. Meanwhile, some young new stars made up for his absence to take the Hawks to a Japan Series victory.

Bobby Valentine signs again with the Marines
Bobby Valentine arrived in Tokyo on Nov 1 to finalize conditions to skipper the Chiba Lotte Marines. On Nov 3, he formally announced he has signed a 3 year deal for 100 million yen to lead the team. Valentine led the Marines in 1995. He skippered the New York Mets from 1996 to 2002.

Victory parades
On Nov 2, the Daiei Hawks held it's victory parade in Fukuoka. It attracted 360 thousand people. Then the next day, the Tigers did the same--its victory parade for its Central League win. It's the last time fans got to see skipper Senichi Hoshino in the pin stripped uniform along with his heavyweight coaching staff. It's the first time in 44 years that a pro baseball team held a motocade in Osaka. In fact the team was in a motorcade twice on Nov 3. In the morning, in Osaka, and in the afternoon in Kobe despite the rain. The total number of fans who turned up is estimated to be 650 thousand.

Bobby Valentine to sign with the Marines
Bobby Valentine arrived in Tokyo on Nov 1 to finalize conditions to skipper the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Tigers announces new coaching staff
The Tigers new coaching staff's average age is under 40. Under skipper Akinobu Okada are Katsuo Hirata as head coach and Yoshinori Sato, Kyudo Nakanishi as pitching coaches. It's a complete revamp from Senichi Hoshino's staff which included Koichi Tabuchi as head coach.