Ichiro is top wage earner again
6- time Pacific League leading hitter Ichiro Suzuki signed the new millenium with the Blue Wave on Jan. 8, 2000. His one year contract is estimated at 530 million yen. That's 30 million yen more than last season. He secured first place in pro baseball's 2000 contract.

IN 1999
Mr. Giants will wear no. 3
Giants' new player Akira Etoh will wear no.33 as promised by Shigeo Nagashima who's been its owner as manager of the team. This was one of the conditions Nagashima agreed upon when negotiating with Etoh about joining the team after he became a free agent. The news was made official on Christmas eve. It means, Nagashima will have to wear a different number. And as many fans dreamed of, he has decided to go back to number 3--that's what he wore as baseball superstar and has been designated his number eternally.

Sasaki picks the Mariners
Japan's star relief pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki finally tied the know with an US team. On Dec. 18, he held a press conference to announce with the Seattle Mariners and it's top shareholder Nintendo that he is joining the team. His annual pay is estimated to be 500 million yen. He'll be on a 3 year contract which adds up to a 2 billion yen package according to reports. 6 US teams have been in touch with Sasaki. He will be Japan's 10th US Major League player, and the 3rd to successfully move on as a free agent to America. Sasaki player for the Yokohama BayStars.

Uehara's wage skyrockets, but not as high as Matsuzaka
Giants' super rookie Koji Uehara discussed his earning for next season with the team on Dec. 15. He was offered 66 million yen, up from 13 million yen he made this season. It's one of the highest raise for a rookie, but not so high as to exceed Lions' Daisuke Matsuzaka. Although Uehara clinched more award than Matsuzaka, he did not gripe about making less. Rather, he said that it makes sense because Matsuzaka contribute to attracting more fans to the stadium, whereas Giants' games are fully packed all the time anyway that he could not help the team make more money.

Kudo makes up his mind
MVP pitcher Kimiyasu Kudo finally decided which team to play for since he announced he was going to become free agent on Dec. 1 and leave the Hawks. He was talking to several US Major League teams as well as Japanese teams. He made up his mind to play with the Giants when its manager Shigeo Nagashima flew all the way down to Fukuoka to see him on Dec. 12. Kudo following the meeting with Nagashima flew to Tokyo to decline the Dragons' offer. He called Giant's front office manager to accept their offer the next day. On Dec. 14, Kudo happily held a news conference with Nagashima and tried on his new uniform. He has a one year contract and will make about 150 million yen.

Etoh chooses the Giants'
2 time homerun king Akira Etoh has been negotiating with the Bay Stars, Dragons and Tigers. But on Dec. 6, it became known he rejected those offers, and in the afternoon ceremoniously wore Giants' cap and uniform. He's assumed to have a 4 year contract for 1.2 billion yen.

Ichiro's surprise wedding
It came to the open on Dec. 3 that 6 time Pacific League leading hitter Ichiro of the Blue Wave is tying the knot. His new partner is not any of the actresses he's been rumored to be dating, but rather a former TV announcer, Yumiko Fukushima. Ichiro is set to marry in LA on the very day the marriage was disclosed.
Michiyo's Note: He gave a press conference on Dec. 5 and explained that he's been going steady with Ms. Fukushima since August 1997.

Matsuzaka's pay hikes
Pacific League Rookie of the Year, Daisuke Matsuzaka was offered a big raise. On Dec. 1, he reported during a press conference that he will be earning 70 million yen next season--57 million yen more than this season. It's the greatest raise ever for a rookie in Japan's baseball history. Most sports watchers feel that Matsuzaka's contribution not only to the Seibu Lions, but to the entire league was so great that the amount is not at all surprising. Matsuzaka has a number of offers to appear on TV commercials to add to the assured income.

Etoh decides to go FA
Hiroshima Carp's slugger Akira Etoh announced in a press conference on Nov.9 that he will become a free agent. 29 year old Etoh was homerun king twice. His baseball career was at risk at one time, when a ball banged into his eye during a game. But he managed to recover. Most Central League teams are showing interest in acquiring Etoh.

Hawks parade Fukuoka
Fukuoka fans for the first time in 41 years witnessed a victory parade by a local team on Nov. 6. It started in Kita-kyushu, and the team moved down to Fukuoka city. There were in all, 420,000 fans crowding the streets to view Sadaharu Oh, Kimiyasu Kudo, Koji Akiyama and Hiroyuki Kokubo. Many fans screamed out to Kudo not to leave the team.

'99 Awards
Sadaharu Oh, skipper of Daiei Hawks, the champion team was given the Matsutaro Shoriki Award which is a prestigious award named after the founder of Japan's pro baseball. He is the only one ever to receive the award as a player and skipper. According to the announcement on Oct. 30, Pacific League MVP went to Kimiyasu Kudo of the Hawks and Central League MVP . to Chunichi Dragons' Shigeki Noguchi. Winners of Rookie of the Year was as expected 2 star pitchers. They are Koji Uehara of the Tokyo Giants for the Central League and Seibu Lions' Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Star players become free agents
Award winner Kimiyasu Kudo decided to become a free agent as of Nov. 1. And so did Kazuhiro Sasaki of the BayStars. Sasaki had long aspired to play in the US. He said during a press conference that he would like to continue playing baseball for 2 more years and then become a sportscaster.