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[9/16/2013] Yault Swallows: Wladimir Balentien News and Notes

by on Sep.16, 2013 @ 11:37 pm, under NPB

Nikkan Sports notes that when Wladimir Balentien first joined the Yakult Swallows, there were concerns about his style of play, which starting focusing on the long ball and little else.  To keep that from overtaking Balentien entirely, the team made sure he understood that he would be demoted to Ni-gun if he was careless on the field or did not follow team plans (last season, he was sent down to Ni-gun after the team was able to produce stats that showed he was not being a team player on offense).  Shinya Miyamoto and Ryoji Aikawa have also spent time explaining the importance of hustling and good defense.

Source: Nikkan Sports 9/16/2013

Sanspo adds that Aikawa helped Balentien with Japanese pitch patterns.

Source: Sanspo 9/16/2013

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Team official Masayuki Okumura first saw Balentien play in a Triple-A game in Toledo, Idaho in August 2010.  He was playing for the Louisville Bats.

In the first game Okumura saw, Balentien was the starting DH and batted fifth.

"There was a runner on first and Balentien delivered a hit between first and second.  He had a nice and easy swing.  I thought how great, especially if he was also into helping the team with his bat," Okumura said.

"He reminded me of [Alex] Ramirez.  He held the bat low and stood big.  He was not swinging for the fences and he could handle 160km/h fastballs."

In the third game, Okumura noticed his defense in right.

"With no out and runner on third, he caught a fly ball and threw it back in without taking any big steps.  I thought he must have confidence in his arm and in his defense.  I also noticed how he spoke to a teammate in the dugout after they committed an error.  It did not look like he was being too easy or hard on him and was trying to teach him accordingly.  I felt he could be a team player and would fit in," Okumura said.

Balentien did not hit any home runs in the games Okumura watched.  There were some home runs in the footage they had of him, but the organization did not consider him a home run hitter.

When Balentien arrived in Japan, he had difficulties adjusting and had problems during practices -- he could not throw the ball far when playing catch with Aaron Guiel, he kept fouling everything off during spring camp batting practice.

"He looked like an elementary school kid playing baseball.  I was worried because it seemed like he was under-prepared," recalled Okumura.

He warned Balentien not to take Japanese baseball lightly, and his attitude slowly started to change as he experienced first hand that it was not going to be that easy.

"The biggest reason for his success might be his personality.  He does get sloppy sometimes and can get a little sulky, but he never does anything bad.  He is willing to listen and try things out.  There is a goodness inside of him that makes people around him want to help him," Okumura said.

Source: Sanspo 9/16/2013

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The Swallows increased the number of staff in the stands on Sunday to ensure fan safety and to make sure they could quickly retrieve Balentien's record-breaking home run.  According to stadium officials, a number of Yakult fans, minus their team jerseys, were mixed in with the Hanshin fans in left.

Source: Nikkan Sports 9/16/2013

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The Swallows drew 90,694 in their three-game series against the Hanshin Tigers.  It was the first time they drew 90,000 to a three-game series this season.

Source: Sanspo 9/16/2013

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Hanshin fan Sho Naruoka happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Naruoka entered the left field seating area through the center field entrance with five co-workers.  He was in the middle of finding his seat when he realized the crowd around him was cheering.  When he looked out toward the field, he saw the home run ball and in the next moment, it bounced on the ground toward him.

"My mind went blank," said Naruoka.  "I thought it would be nice if I could see number fifty-six, but I never thought I would get it."

He then said, "I think the player that set the new record with this ball must want it the most.  I believe it should go back to him."

Source: Nikkan Sports 9/16/2013

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Number fifty-seven was also returned, but the organization did not make any announcements about it and has not released the individual's name.

Source: Sanspo 9/16/2013

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NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato:

I want to congratulate him on the new record.  The real thrill in baseball is when power goes up against power and the fans are overwhelmed by it.  I think that is what happened here.  He has hit home runs at an amazing pace and has put up great stats despite missing thirteen games to injury.  He needs to stay healthy because I look forward to watching him play the rest of the season and having an even better 2014.

Teammate Shinya Miyamoto:

I was excited.  I was able to see someone hit number fifty-six, and it was hit by a teammate.  It was a game that might have gotten rained out, so in that sense, it was a gift from the Gods.  He can get a little sloppy though.  I should not praise him too much.

Former teammate Norichika Aoki:

I did not think he would ever hit this many.  He has a tendency to be inconsistent, but he has managed to stay consistent this year.  I feel sad to see Sadaharu Oh's record broken, but he broke it because he worked hard.

Source: Sponichi 9/16/2013

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Seung-Yeop Lee on why he thinks Balentien's fifty-seven home runs do not set an Asia record:

The home runs were hit in different leagues.  I created my record in Korea, Balentien in Japan.  Different stages.

Source: Sponichi 9/16/2013

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Sixteen of Balentien's home runs have been hit in games Yasuhiro Ogawa has started.

Source: Sponichi 9/16/2013

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The Swallows have started taking pre-orders on special Balentien "New Record" t-shirts that will be shipped to individuals once the season ends.

Source: product page