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Kenji Johjima News and Notes: Johjima wants to play in every regular season game

by on Nov.13, 2009 @ 10:41 pm, under NPB
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About 170 reporters showed up for Kenji Johjima's press conference at a hotel in Osaka on Friday.

Johjima signed a 4 year deal worth 2B yen plus incentives with the Hanshin Tigers and was assigned the number 2.

What follows are his comments (via Sanspo):

What are you feeling right now?

This is the third press conference I've had in my life.  You could say that I've gotten used to them.  I'm glad that I'm able to have this big smile on my face at a press conference in front of so many people in Osaka.

What are your family or people close to you saying?

It's my baseball career.  My family understands how important this is for me.  I'm sure they will give me all the support I need.

What kind of catcher do you want to be?

I'm sure the media will provide plenty of coverage when things are going well, but I'm also sure that the media will provide plenty of criticism when things are going badly.  When that happens, I want to be standing front and center, taking full responsibility.  My job is to help pitchers when they need the support.  I don't want the pitchers to feel like they're out there on the mound by themselves.

How about communication with the pitchers?

I play mahjong.  And just as in mahjong, it is important to know your pitchers in good times and in bad times.  I want to try and catch as many pitchers as I can during camp.  I want to make each of those moments stick.

Have you done any research on Hanshin?  You did play along side Fujikawa and Iwata during the WBC.

Everything happened in such a flurry.  Iwata and Kyuji [Fujikawa] are both pitchers that are good enough to play at the WBC and they both threw extremely well.  Even if things are quiet between us, they are the type of pitchers that need to do well.

The team is counting on your right-handed bat...

I've been playing this game for 15 years and I'm not about to change the way I play.  I have a proactive approach to hitting.  If I see a mistake pitch during my first at bat of the regular season, I'll be ready to swing.

Any stat goals?

If possible, I'd like to play every inning of every game.  If not that, then at least every game.  I'd like to try and emulate Kanemoto.

Playing in the Central League will be a first for you...

I grew up in the Pacific League, so there's plenty I have to learn.  As a player, I have a bunch of concerns.  But I need to move forward.  I want to address each of my concerns one by one so that I'll be fully prepared for opening day.  No matter how many years go by, I can never sleep the day before opening day.  I'm sure I'll approach it filled with excitement and tension.

Your thoughts on the Hanshin fans...

As an opponent, Koshien Stadium was a really tough place to play in.  Now those fans will be on my side.  I'm looking forward to hearing all the fans cheering for me.  But with all the cheering comes a lot of responsibility as well.  I think the real cheering will take place next Fall when they're thinking how glad they are that the Tigers signed Johjima.  As long as I decided to join this team, I need to keep moving forward and play my best for the Tigers and go crazy at Koshien Stadium.

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Kenji Johjima picks the Hanshin Tigers

by on Oct.27, 2009 @ 4:18 pm, under NPB
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Kenji Johjima has signed on with the Hanshin Tigers.

Seiichi Hoshino was at the meeting.

No word on contract details as of yet.

Sanspo: 城島、阪神入り決定!5年ぶり日本球界復帰

Sports Hochi: 「阪神・城島」誕生!」

Nikkan Sports: 星野SDも出馬、城島の阪神入りが決定

Daily Sports: 城島「阪神にお世話になると決めた」

Mainichi Shimbun: 城島捕手:阪神入団を表明 「一番最初、誠意感じた」

=== UPDATE 10/27/2009 10:11pm JST

Q&A posted by Sanspo:

Why Hanshin?

They raised their hands up first the minute I said I would be leaving the Mariners.  I really felt like the entire team really wanted me.

On your old team, the Hawks...

They've really done a lot for me so I had a hard time deciding.  I called my mentor Oh-san last night to let him know my decision.  I hear the Hawks have some internal problems and they're still going through some changes on the team level as well...

Hoshino was at the meetings today...

He said something really great to me.  Hoshino said, "we really need your energy."

Your impression of Hanshin...

When I was over there (the States) I kept my eye on the Hawks.  To be honest, I didn't really know enough about Hanshin to have an opinion.  I do know that the passionate fans that used to be rooting against me will now be rooting for me.

On the team counting on you to not only be their catcher, but also bat in the middle of their lineup...

Expectations are what other people have of you.  No matter where in the order I bat, I won't change my batting style.  And that's to try and hit the ball as hard as I can during every at bat.

Anything for Akinobu Mayumi (manager)...

I want to ask him why his nickname is "Joe."  I have the same nickname so I'll have to change mine.

=== UPDATE 10/27/2009 10:42pm JST

Johjima on the Hawks...

I met Oh and I was really moved.  Lot's asked that I return, but I only have one body.  My feelings for Fukuoka will never change.

Kenjiro Nomura (Carp manager) on Johjima...

I think he's a fierce competitor because he's a great catcher and he knows how to lead.  But I can't really worry about him, I need to worry about this B class team.  I want to try not to lose.

Takanori Takeuchi (Softbank COO) on losing Johjima...

I regret the fact that we couldn't move quickly enough.  And it caused a lot of ripples within the team.  He met with Oh-san on Saturday so I thought we'd have a little more time.

Sadaharu Oh (Softbank chairman) on losing Johjima...

It's really too bad because I wanted him to return and see him win a championship with this team.  But it was his decision.  I still believe he can help bring even more appeal the the pro baseball community in Japan.

Akinobu Mayumi (Tigers manager) on Johjima...

I had confidence that he would come but I'm relieved it's finally over.  I now want to work with him towards winning a championship.  With his defense and his shoulder, I want him to lead the youngsters and held them develop.  And I'm really looking forward to seeing hit for average and for power.

=== UPDATE 10/27/2009 11:17pm JST

Tatsunori Hara (Giants manager) on Johjima returning...

I think it's good news that he's returning to Japan.

=== UPDATE 10/27/2009 11:58pm JST

Johjima signed a 4-year deal worth 2B yen plus bonuses (US$21.7M).  The team also assigned him the number 2.

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Kenji Johjima Updates from 10/27/2009

by on Oct.27, 2009 @ 8:37 am, under NPB
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The Tigers are hoping to have a better idea of the direction Kenji Johjima is heading in when they meet with him later today.

Said a Tigers rep, "We'll have our second meeting with Johjima tomorrow (27th).  We'd like to try and bring the talks around to his decision.  We'd like to know a little more of what to expect before the draft on Thursday, so we'll try to get some more information from them."

The Tigers also have no plans of increasing their offer and will instead work on making sure Johjima knows just how much they want him.

Seiichi Hoshino is also ready if the Tigers want him to be present at the meeting.

In other news, Sadaharu Oh said that for the time being, his job of trying to get Johjima to sign with the Hawks is now over.

"My job [in this situation] is over.  I told him that the team is interested but what happens nets, we someone in the front office that handles that.  Contact from Johjima?  No, haven't heard a thing."

One might think that Oh is feeling frustrated at the teams' lukewarm response to Johjima returning to Japan.

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The back-story to Kenji Johjima?

by on Oct.26, 2009 @ 2:26 pm, under NPB
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I wonder what it feels like to have both Sadaharu Oh and Seiichi Hoshino working for their respective teams to acquire you?

Kenji Johjima knows.

Back when the Tigers first met up with Johjima on 10/23, Hoshino apparently got in touch with Oh to inform him of his team's interest.  This was a move made out of respect for the ties Oh has with Johjima.

With the Hawks now back in the fold (Oh met with Johjima on the 24th), the Tigers are hoping that the fact they reached out to Oh first counts for something and that Johjima will ultimately decide to join the Tigers.

The Tigers and Johjima are set to meet again on the 27th.

"The time and place are still not set, but we're thinking the 27th.  A battle with the Hawks?  In the end, it'll be his decision to make and we'll wait with confidence that he'll join us," said a team rep.

It is also said that the Tigers' first offer to Johjima was for 4 years at 2.5B yen (or about $27M) plus bonuses.

And according to Sports Hochi article linked to above, it would seem Johjima is indeed leaning toward the Tigers.

=== UPDATE 10/26/2009 8:05pm JST

It seems that Hoshino may also attend the second meeting.

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Some Kenji Johjima Updates from 10/24/2009

by on Oct.25, 2009 @ 4:10 am, under NPB
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The Softbank Hawks apparently do want Kenji Johjima.

Softbank COO Takanori Takeuchi said on Friday (10/24) that, "We have decided to enter the bidding war."

Takeuchi continued, "We have some issues with player development and things are kind of rough for us financially as well right now. ...and the result of that meant we had to put this off until later.  Now we need to figure out a way to show him we're sincere."

There is still no set date for when the two sides will meet but when asked about what kind of offer the team might present Johjima, Takeuchi repled, "We will take our current team's balance into consideration as we try to work out a reasonable offer."


Sadaharu Oh met with Johjima on Saturday for dinner to let him know that the team was interested in him.  There was no specific talk about contracts or offers.

Oh's comments after the meeting: "No decisions were made today.  I'm sure Johjima will let us know what he's thinking sometime in the near future.  Today was just about letting each other know how we felt.  It's been 15 years since we first started working together.  He was also born in Kyushu so he knows what the fans are thinking as well."

Johjima's comments after the meeting (via his agent): "The Hawks are my old team.  To be told by Oh-san that the team is interested in me, that's very special to me.  I'll think about this carefully but since I don't want to cause any fuss for the Hawks or Tigers, I'll do my best to make my decision as soon as possible."


Toshiya Sugiuchi and Tsuyoshi Wada also offered their opinions.

Sugiuchi: "I'd love for him to catch me. It definitely beats having to face him."

Wada: I still remember hugging Johjima's when we won the Championships."


The Tigers would love for Johjima to hurry up and decide what he would like to do so that he can begin working out with the team during the Tigers' Fall camp that begins on 10/29.


An interview with Tigers' club president Nobuo Minami after his meeting with him on the 10/23:

On the preliminary negotiations with Johjima

I can't really get into that.  Conditions?  We told him everything.

Your initial feelings?

I think it went well.

Do you think something could be decided soon?

I don't think it can ever be, "meet today and sign the contract today."  After all, this is a big decision for him.

What did Akinobu Mayumi and Johjima talk about?

They spoke about baseball stuff.

Will there be another meeting?

I'm guessing there will be.  It will go one step at a time.  And we don't want to take exposure away from the postseason right now.

What did you talk about with the agent?

We spoke about a number of things.  Outside of money?  We didn't really get into the specifics.  We did say that we could use his abilities to help us win a Championship.  This is going to be a really big choice for Johjima.

Now that you've negotiated with him, what are you thoughts on Johjima?

He really takes baseball seriously.  He seemed really passionate about baseball when he started talking about it.

Why did you end up meeting today?

This day was open on our schedules.


A snippet from Johjima's interview on the 21st:

When would you like to decide by?

The reason why I picked the Mariners back then was because they were the first to make a move and I really got the sense that they wanted me.  And that's what I'm thinking now, so I have no intention of dragging this out and to be honest, this isn't about money.  It's not like I came out here for the money so that's really not the most important thing for me.  It's about joining a team that wants me and playing time.  So whichever contract can give me the most playing time.  That's basically what I'll be looking for.

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Hanshin Tigers and Kenji Johjima meet for the first time

by on Oct.23, 2009 @ 9:29 pm, under NPB
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The Hanshin Tigers met with Kenji Johjima earlier today for about an hour and half.  An offer may have also been presented to Johjima during the meting.

Club President Nobuo Minami said that Akinobu Mayumi and Johjima were engaged in a serious conversation about how Johjima could help the club.

Said Minami, "[Mayumi] asked [Johjima]to help bring home a championship.  I think the meeting went well."

The two sides are planning to meet again at some point next week.

Johjima left this message for the press through his agent, "I was flattered that the [Tigers] came all the way out to Fukuoka to meet me.  They were really sincere with me and I'd like to take that back home with me."

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Late Night Update on Kenji Johjima from 10/22/2009

by on Oct.23, 2009 @ 1:49 am, under NPB
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According to Sponichi, the Hanshin Tigers and Kenji Johjima will hold off any contract talks until after the Climax Series.  Club president Minami said that he understood signing Johjima as soon as possible would be best for the club but that he also didn't want to create a stir during the Climax Series.

A separate Sponichi article quotes Tigers' club rep Tsunoda as saying, "We haven't decided in which direction we'll be heading."

The same article also includes a quote Sadaharu Oh and the current situation with the Hawks.

"Someone who has say with the club is looking into it," said Oh.  "I don't think now is a time for me to get involved."

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Kenji Johjima News and Notes from 10/22/2009 (UPDATED)

by on Oct.22, 2009 @ 9:33 am, under NPB
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...Via Sanspo, Akinobu Okada wants Kenji Johjima.

"Of course I'd want him.  But the situation.  I would think everyone wants him.  But going with just 1 catcher would be tough to do," said Okada.

But unfortunately, money is the problem.

"We'd have to get rid of Rhodes and Cabrera in order to round up enough money [to sign Johjima]," said a club rep.


...The Hawks are still undecided on Johjima.

"We need to make a decision soon.  We've been discussing this but we still aren't in a place where we can make a decision," said COO Takeuchi.

"A decision won't be easy. We'll need to think about the structure of the entire team," said team rep Tsunoda.

...A brief interview with Sadaharu Oh posted by Sanspo:

On Johjima leaving the Mariners...

He must have had a really good reason to return to the Japan in the middle of a 3-year deal, but regardless, his return is good for baseball in Japan.  He's a player with character and poise.

He's a student of yours...

I know his story from his start with the team.  I even visited his school for his team entrance application.  So in that sense, I do have some memories of him.

The club still hasn't said anything about what they might do...

The whole club needs to think about what to do.  The COO Takeuchi and the manager Akiyama have had conversations on it, but we're not in a place where we can make a decision right away.

Your personal opinion...

I think we need his presence.  He has baseball skills and has the ability to pull a team together.  There's something special about him.  He was popular here.  I think it would be great if he can return to Fukuoka wearing a Hawks' uniform.

...When a club rep was asked if there might be a money problem signing Johjima, the reply was: "I can't say that there wouldn't be."


...The Tigers are also really high on Johjima.

"He'd be a big help if he joined our team.  It might sound a bit extreme, but I think he's the type of player that can bring a team a Championship.  No matter what...  Whatever it takes, I'd love for him to come here," said Akinobu Mayumi.

...Mayumi has said that he'd make time to meet Johjima if it would help get him on the team.

=== Updated 10/22/2009 @ 2:00pm JST

...A Q&A with Johjima posted by Sponichi:

Your reasons for leaving...

There were a lot of things, and not just things that happened this season.  But I did also feel as if now were the best time to decide.  I thought if I let this opportunity go by...

On your 4 years with the Mariners...

I was lucky to be surrounded by great staff.  I think I got a lot stronger playing alongside Ichiro.  Other than my family, I also confided with Ichiro on this decision.  He wasn't just a teammate, but also someone who understood me, similar to a coach, even an older brother.  He has great presence and poise.  He's my role model.

Your feelings about the Fukuoka fans...

My feelings remain the same.  But my wishes alone won't necessarily get bring me to where I want to go.

What kind of team would you like to join?

I felt I didn't get enough playing time over the last 2 years.  I want to go to whatever will let me go out and play like crazy.

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Woah… Don’t count the Hawks out of the Johjima sweepstakes just yet…

by on Oct.21, 2009 @ 4:14 pm, under NPB
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It appears as though Sadaharu Oh is still interested in having Kenji Johjima back on the team.

"I think his presence on the Hawks is needed," said Oh. "It would be great if he can return to playing with a Hawks' uniform."

Oh added, "I think the club as a whole needs to think about it.  At this point, I don't think it'll be possible for the club to come up with an answer right away."

It'll be interesting if there is a split in the front office with regards to whether or not Johjima returns to the Hawks.  More than that, if the Hawks do go after Johjima, where will Hidenori Tanoue play?

Tanoue has played a couple of games at first and third in his career, but that's about it.  And while first base could be an interesting option, the Hawks have Hiroki Kokubo there.  The Hawks could turn around and make Kokubo a third baseman again, but if I'm not mistaken, one of their main reasons for moving him over to first was due to his healthy.  They also have a Nobuhiro Matsuda to play third.

At the end of the day, it just doesn't make much sense for the Hawks to go after Johjima, unless they also plan on making some fairly big moves to make room for him.

Some Kenji Johjima Updates from 10/21/2009

by on Oct.21, 2009 @ 10:49 am, under NPB
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The Yomiuri Giants have no interest in Kenji Johjima.

Team rep Hidetoshi Kiyotake on Kenji Johjima's impending return to the NPB:

We already have one of the best Japanese catchers in Shinnosuke Abe.  There's not much more to mention passed that.

While the Giants have begun looking for a catcher to replace Abe, they aren't look for an immediate replacement, but rather a youngster they can groom over a number of years.


The Softbank Hawks also appear to be distancing themselves from Johjima.

Softbank COO Takeuchi said, "We do we need right now; what do we need 2-3 years from now...  These are the things we've talked about  Johjima's name?  Yeah, it surfaced in our discussions, but not in terms of what we'd do."


And all this leads to the Hanshin Tigers being the most likely of destinations for Johjima's services.

Tigers' owner Sakai said, "He's a catcher that has represented Japan [on the world stage].  We definitely want him.  We intend to go after him hard."

Tigers' team president Minami said, "In looking over the next few years, we really need a righty bat that can hit in the middle of our line-up.  We'll put our efforts into trying to sign him.  We'll meet with him and let him know how interested we are in his service."

The Tigers are supposedly thinking about offering Johjima a 4-year deal likely worth over 2B yen.


Sanspo mentions that the contract could be closer to 1.5B yen over 3 years and that the Tigers will give him his old Daiei Hawks uniform number 2.

The Tigers are also aware that Johjima may be interested in a managing position at some point in the future.


Comments from Johjima on the 10/20:

I just recently became unemployed so there's still no movement.  My agent is supposed to fly into Japan tomorrow so please ask him about that.

...I did a lot of thinking and the result of that was my decision to return to Japan to play.  Being close to my family and friends was a big reason.

...It was great being able to spend the last four years playing with a great bunch of team mates and coaching crew.  I'm also grateful to the Mariners organization for allowing me a chance to attain my dream.  It was a little sad to part with the fans in Seattle.  I'd like to say "thank you" to all of them.

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