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05/12/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 19"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

Although the final drawings are months away from being unveiled, preliminary work on the Florida Marlins’ new 37,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark has begun. The $525 million stadium will be built on the site of football’s Orange Bowl, which is already in the process of being demolished. The new ballpark will be among the smallest in the major leagues when it opens in 2011, covering 960,000 square feet of ground.
HOK Sports of Kansas City is designing the facility. Marlins president David Samson says the month of May is being spent on how the stadium will look, inside and out. “We’ve spent many hours going from room to room with HOK and figuring out exactly what is happening with the stadium,” Samson says. “Literally, we’re going room by room from the top level of the stadium all the way to the bottom.”
According to Samson, the Marlins want to incorporate the ballpark with the Little Havana neighborhood surrounding it. “We want to have the culture of Miami,” he says. “For example, we can picture having a place to drink coffee, a place to smoke cigars, a place to have Cuban food. It’s really to capture the diversity of our population. We want something for everyone.” The new ballpark with have views of downtown Miami.
Samson adds that one thing that will follow the team from Dolphins Stadium to the new ballpark will be affordable tickets. “Let’s put it this way: Fans won’t be unable to go to the new stadium because of price.”
On the playing field, the 19-14 Marlins are in a virtual tie with Philadelphia for first place in the National League East Division. St. Louis has won seven of ten games to take the lead in the NL Central with a 22-13 record, giving them a two-and-a-half game margin over the Chicago Cubs. Arizona’s 22-12 record gives them the top record in the league, three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

Coming off a banner 2007 campaign, Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena was looking forward to adding to his Comeback Player of the Year performance. Pena hit .282 last year, setting Rays season records with 46 homers and 121 RBIs. However, 2008 has not been kind to the cleanup batter.
After wearing the so-called Golden Sombrero last Tuesday night against Toronto by striking out swinging four times in as many trips to the plate, Pena was batting just .207 with seven homers and 17 RBIs after 33 games. And this was on the heels of a seven-game hitting streak. Despite Pena’s struggles, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon says he’s seen signs that Pena is about to break out of his slump. “I thought he was doing a nice job,” Maddon told reporters. “In Boston he hit a home run and he just missed another home run. A couple good top spin line drives to right, which tells me he’s swinging the bat right.” The Rays will need Pena’s bat to keep up their surprising start this year.
Tampa Bay is in second place in the American League East Division at 17-16, three-and-a-half games behind the 22-14 Boston Red Sox. Minnesota has the top slot in the AL Central with a 17-15 record, a game-and-a-half ahead of Cleveland. In the West, the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland are tied for the lead with identical 22-14 marks.

The Hanshin Tigers and Seibu Lions have opened up their respective leads in Japan’s two major leagues. Hanshin has a 23-9-1 record in the Central League, putting them three games ahead of the 19-11-3 Chunichi Dragons. There’s a three-way tie between Yomiuri, Yakult and Hiroshima for third place, eight-and-a-half games out of first. Yokohama continues to flounder in last place in the CL with just nine wins in their first 32 games. Yakult’s Hiroyasu Tanaka leads the Central League with a .370 batting average, while Chunichi’s Kazuki Yoshimi tops league pitchers with a microscopic 0.79 ERA, no doubt helping him build a 4-0 record in five starts.
In the Pacific League, Seibu is 24-13-1 and has opened up a five-game bulge over 20-19-1 Nippon Ham. Softbank and Rakuten are tied for third, five-and-a-half games out of the lead, while Lotte and Orix bring up the rear. Takeshi Yamasaki of Rakuten has a Pacific League-leading .369 batting average. Yamasaki’s Golden Eagles teammate, ex-big leaguer Jose Fernandez, is third in the league with a .315 average. Fernandez also has six homers and 36 RBIs. Another Rakuten player, Hisashi Iwakuma, has the best ERA in Japan at 0.57 to go with his 4-1 record.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Jin-ho Cho won his first professional game in five seasons last week, scattering four hits over six shutout innings in a victory for Samsung over Hanwha in a Korea Baseball Organization game.
Cho was signed by the Red Sox out of high school, and made eleven starts for Boston between 1998 and 1999, posting a 2-6 record with a 6.52 ERA over 58 innings. One of those wins came in 1999 against the Texas Rangers, whose lineup featured Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez. Cho spent three seasons in the Red Sox organization before returning home to Korea to pitch for the SK Wyverns.
In 2003, he went 4-5 for the Wyverns, winning his last game on August 23 of that year. Then 29, Cho was then forced to complete his obligations with the South Korean military. Upon finishing his service, he developed elbow ligament problems and had to undergo surgery, missing another nine months.
Cho signed a 50 million won contract with Samsung this season, but was sent to the minors to start the year. He was recalled earlier this month and got the call last Sunday to pitch against the Eagles. Following his performance, Cho is a likely bet to remain in the Lions’ starting rotation for the immediate future.

The Manila Sharks raced to an early 6-0 lead over the Dumaguete Uni-bikers last Sunday, and then had to hold on for a 7-5 win to preserve their undefeated record in the Baseball Philippines league standings. Christian Galledo and Edward Lanhicho each had three hits and an RBI, while Rommel Roja drove in two more runs to help Manila reach the 5-0 mark on the Spring season.
The Sharks lead the BP standings by two-and-a-half games over Batangas and Cebu, who are both 3-2. Antipolo, Taguig and Dumaguete are all tied for fourth at 2-3, while the Makati Mariners continue to struggle at 0-5. Batangas plated a league record ten runs in the first inning against Makati last Sunday and cruised to a 17-7 win, while Taguig bounced Antipolo 13-4. All three games were played in Manila.

The Laguna Vaqueros have signed former major league outfielder Melvin Nieves to a contract. The move is meant to bolster the Vaqueros lineup as the first half of the Mexican League season nears its end.
A native of Puerto Rico, Nieves signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1988 and made his major league debut with the Braves in 1992. His most productive years came with Detroit between 1996 and 1997, when he bashed 44 homers and drove in 124 runs over those two seasons. The 20-year pro baseball veteran attended spring training with Washington this year. He didn’t make the Nats roster and was contemplating retirement before getting the call to Torreon.
There’s not much Nieves can do for Laguna in the first half. The Vaqueros are seven games out of first place in the Mexican League’s North Division. Monclova and Saltillo are tied for first at 28-14, while Laguna sits at 21-21, one game ahead of Chihuahua and two games up on Nuevo Laredo. Puebla and Tijuana are sixth and seventh, respectively, while defending champion Monterrey has fallen to last place in the North with a 17-25 record.
In the LMB South, 29-13 Yucatan has a comfortable four-and-a-half game lead over 24-17 Mexico City. Tabasco has moved up to third place, one game behind the Diablos Rojos and a half game ahead of fourth place Quintana Roo. The South’s second division includes Veracruz, Campeche, Minatitlan and the 9-31 Oaxaca Guerreros.

Leaders of the Netherlands National Team are preparing for the Beijing Olympics in August, with a 40-man list of potential players announced last week. Listed players all have Dutch passports from birth, although not all were born in Holland. Netherlands manager Robert Eenhorn, a former Yankees minor league shortstop, will have to deal with the likelihood that many of those players listed won’t be available, however.
One such player is pitcher Jair Jurrgens, who is currently pitching for the Atlanta Braves. Another is Wladimir Balentien, who was recently called up to the majors by the Seattle and is now the Mariners starting right fielder. In all, 24 of the listed players are presently performing in the Dutch National League, including former major league outfielder Eugene Kingsale and pitcher David Bergman. Another 14 are playing in the United States. One player, longtime Mexican League star Sharnol Adriana, is playing first base for the Minatitlan Petroleros, although Adriana may be available for the Olympics because the Mexican regular season ends in late July.

Ticket sales for this summer’s Olympic Games have been busy, according to sources in Beijing. A total of 1.38 million tickets went on sale last week for 244 sessions across 16 sports, including baseball. On the first day, over 320,000 ducats had been purchased by domestic buyers.
An article on the International Baseball Federation’s website says, “reports from officials indicate that as of Tuesday morning, May 6 (the second day of the third round of domestic ticket sales), all baseball tickets were sold out.”
Eight countries will play baseball at Beijing’s Wukesong Stadium in August for what is expected to be the final appearance of the sport in Olympic competition.

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Replies: 1 Comment

International baseball - you gotta loveit

Posted by Max Blue @ 05/14/2008 04:13 AM EST

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