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07/26/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (July 27, 2007)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

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Fans in Miami are showing more interest in the Florida Marlins this season...they're just not showing up at the ballpark. While the Marlins are last in National League attendance with an average of about 15,000 fans per game (including less than 5,000 season tickets), the team has done well in television ratings for 2008.
The Marlins have experienced a 13 percent increase in viewership for their broadcasts, and have been in the top ten among all major league teams throughout the season. Last Sunday's telecast of the Marlins-Phillies game is a good example. Nielsen ratings report the game drew a 5.2 average, peaking at 8.0 at one point (with over 122,000 homes watching). It was the highest-rated cable program that day in the greater Miami area. Radio ratings have increased, too.

While the Tampa Bay Rays have been getting a lot of notice for their work on the field, work of a different kind is taking place behind the scenes. The Rays will be moving their spring training headquarters to Port Charlotte, Florida next year, and an overhaul of the former site of the Texas Rangers training camp is well underway.
The renovations have included replacement of all seats, two new berm areas along the foul lines, upgraded suites and press boxes, a new 40,000-square foot clubhouse and office building, and a new “Kids Zone” along the right field line. In all, the project will cost $27 million, which will be paid for by Charlotte County, the State of Florida and the Rays. Over 2,000 season ticket deposits for the 2009 spring season have been received.
The Rays will be leaving St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field behind as their spring training site.

Although USA Baseball has already settled on a roster of minor leaguers to represent America at next month's Olympic Games in Beijing, it may not hurt to take a second look at some of the college players comprising Team USA in international competition this summer.
Coming off an impressive win in the Haarlem Baseball Festival tournament in The Netherlands, the Americans continued to run the table in their overseas tour by winning their first five games of pool play in the World University Championships in the Czech Republic. Team USA defeated Japan 9-3 last Wednesday to clinch a berth in this weekend's tournament portion. In that game, Japan opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning on Keijiro Matsumoto's RBI double, but the Americans scored four runs in the top of the second, keyed by a two-run single up the middle from California's Blake Smith and never looked back.
American starter Chris Hernandez of Miami took the win, but the most impressive pitching performance was turned in by Missouri's Kyle Gibson. Gibson recorded three strikeouts in 1.2 perfect innings, with 19 of his 20 pitches thrown for strikes. Baylor's Kendal Volz worked a 1-2-3 ninth in a non-save situation to seal the deal for Team USA, who are undefeated in 21 games this summer.

Kentaro Sekimoto went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and five RBIs to lead the Hanshin Tigers to a 7-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons in a Japanese Central League game Friday at Koshien Stadium. Sekimoto's fifth inning bomb gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead that starting pitcher Yuya Ando parlayed into his second complete game win of the season. Ando carried a shutout into the eighth inning en route to his ninth win in 14 decisions this season.
The win gave the Tigers a 58-30-1 record, by far the best in the Japanese majors. Hanshin is 10.5 games ahead of the 48-41-2 Yomiuri Giants in the Central League standings, and appear to be cruising to the pennant. In the Pacific League, the Seibu Lions have maintained their season-long leadership. Despite losing a 2-1 thriller to Nippon Ham Friday as the Fighters' Eiichi Koyano homered and drove in two runs, Seibu is in first place with a 51-40-1 record, 3.5 game ahead of the Fighters.
Yokohama's Seiichi Uchikawa leads the Central League in batting with a .357 average, while Seibu's Hiroyuki Nakajima tops Pacific League hitters at .344. In pitching, Nippon Ham ace Yu Darvish has an 11-3 record and a Pacific League-best 1.88 ERA. Yakult's Masanori Ishikawa leads Central League pitchers with a 2.32 ERA despite a mediocre 8-6 record.

For the first time in Korean pro baseball history, a foreign player has topped the fan balloting for the All-Star Game as Lotte Giants outfielder Karim Garcia captured the most votes with 678,557. In all, over 1.2 million ballots were cast, marking the first time in the KBO's 27-year history that over a million All-Star votes were recorded.
A native of Obregon, Mexico, Garcia is currently hitting .250 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs in his first year playing in South Korea. The 33-year-old previously played 488 games in the major leagues with seven different teams, batting .241 with 66 homers and 212 RBIs. In a statement released by his team, Garcia said, “I feel honored. I want to thank all the fans for supporting the Giants.” Garcia's gratitude was well-directed, as at one late point, Lotte players led the balloting for all ten starting slots for the KBO's East All-Stars.
The KBO All-Star Game will be played August 3 at the Wyverns' Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon.

A three-run homer by dMedia T-Rex outfielder Chen Yuan-jin highlighted an eight-run sixth inning explosion as Chen's Red Team defeated the White Team 10-6 last weekend at the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Star Game in Taiwan. Chen was named the game's MVP after going 1-for-2 in front of over 14,000 fans at Taichung City's Intercontinental Stadium in a game that featured 24 hits, including five home runs.
The Red Team was created with players from Taipei and Northern Taiwanese teams (Brother Elephants, Chinatrust Whales and dMedia T-Tex), while the White Team consisted of members of Central and Southern Taiwanese teams (President Lions, Sinon Bulls and La New Bears).
Former major leaguer Tilson Brito cracked a solo homer in the contest after setting a number of records in the Home Run Derby. The ex-Toronto Blue Jay uncorked 27 homers in the final round to win the Derby as the Dominican slugger finished with a record total of 46 homers, 12 of them coming consecutively.

Cuba has released its 24-man roster for next month's Olympic Games in Beijing, and there is one notable absence. Longtime outfielder Osmani Urrutia, one of the greatest batters in Cuban history, has been left off the team. Urrutia was one of five players dropped from Cuba's preliminary roster, along with pitchers Elier Sanchez and Miguel Lahera, catcher Yosvany Peraza and infielder Yoandy Garlobo.
Cuba will take ten pitchers to China, including righthander Pedro Lazo. Lazo was a member of Cuba's gold-medal winning teams of 1996 and 2004 as well as the silver medalists of 2000, and he'll set an Olympics baseball record with his fourth appearance in the Games this year. Other veterans from previous Olympic Games are pitcher Norge Vera, catcher Ariel Pestano and shortstop Eduardo Paret. The team will be managed by Antonio Pacheco.
Cuba has won three of the four Olympic gold medals since baseball became a medal sport in 1992, settling for silver in 2000 when it was defeated by the United States. The Cubans will open their Beijing schedule on Wednesday, August 13, when they take on one of the favorites for the gold, Japan.

After a sluggish first half the the 2008 season, the defending Mexican League champion Monterrey Sultanes have picked it up in the second half and are now leading the Northern Division with a 35-16 record, 2.5 games better than 32-18 Monclova heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The Sultanes are finishing their schedule with a three-game home series against hapless Nuevo Laredo, who are 21.5 games off the pace. Things are only a little tighter in the LMB South, where the 33-15 Mexico City Diablos Rojos lead the Campeche Piratas by two games. The Diablos are in Veracruz for a three-game set with the Aguilas, who are a game under .500 at 25-26 for sixth place in the division.
About the only question left is whether Saltillo's Kit Pellow will win the Triple Crown, and even that's not much in doubt. Heading into the weekend, the former Kansas City Royals infielder had comfortable leads in all three categories, batting .377 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs over 101 games.
The Mexican League playoffs begin this week. After several seasons using a convoluted formula that allowed teams losing in the first round to advance in the playoffs, the Liga is reverting to a standard top-four format in each division after points are awarded to each team based on their finish in the standings for each half of the regular season.

Cinderella hasn't given up those glass slippers just yet, as the surprising Dumaguete Uni-bikers eliminated the season champion Manila Sharks last weekend in Baseball Philippines playoff action at Manila's Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. Darwin dela Calzada pitched a complete game as Dumaguete snuck past Manila 3-2 in the third and deciding game of their set to advance to the BP Championship Series against the Batangas Bulls.
The Bulls opened that series last Sunday with a 10-3 win over Dumaguete. Batangas starter Vladimir Eguia pitched six hitless innings while his teammates racked up seven runs in the sixth inning. The best-of-3 BPCS will be concluded this weekend.

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