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Kenji Jojima News and Notes: September 30, 2012

by on Sep.30, 2012 @ 9:34 pm, under NPB
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Updates on Kenji Jojima from September 30:

  • Jojima threw the ball twenty times when he played catch with Kyuji Fujikawa before his retirement game on Saturday.  Source: Sponichi 9/30/2012
  • Yuya Ando and Orix Ni-gun manager Hiromasa Arai presented Jojima with flowers.  A number of players from the Ichi-gun team were at the game, including manager Yutaka WadaKazuya TsutsuiMinoru Iwata, and Takahiro Arai.  Jojima gave his bat to Shunsuke Fujikawa.  Souce: Sanspo 9/30/2012
  • The 1,717 fans that attended Saturday's game set a new high at Naruohama.  The area was so crowded that police had to step in to control traffic.  Incidentally, 1,300 fans watched Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi pitch in his last game as a Hanshin Tiger on September 23, 2011.  Source: Sponichi 9/30/2012
  • About forty of Jojima's family (wife, three kids) and relatives attended the game.  Source: Sanspo 9/30/2012
  • Capacity at Naruohama is listed at about 500.
  • Jojima got behind the plate on Saturday for the first time since June, 5, 2011 (vs Orix).  Alan Nero was also reportedly at the game.  Source: Sports Hochi Osaka 9/30/2012

Kenji Jojima News and Notes: September 29, 2012

by on Sep.29, 2012 @ 4:35 pm, under NPB
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Updates on Kenji Jojima from September 29:

Today's retirement game against Ni-gun Orix at Naruohama: Jojima was the starting catcher and batted third.  With runners on first and second and no out in the bottom of the 1st, he hit a RBI single to center.  He was promptly replaced by a pinch-runner.  As he got near home plate, his three kids presented him with flowers.  Kyuji Fujikawa and the rest of the players in the dugout all walked toward Jojima and tossed him into the air seven times.  Source: Nikkan Sports 9/29/2012, Daily Sports 9/29/2012

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Kimiyasu Kudo attended Jojima's press conference on Friday and later presented him with flowers.  Source: Nikkan Sports 9/29/2012

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Sanspo has posted additional a second interview Jojima conducted directly with the media on Friday.

What was the biggest reason why you retired?

The I could not throw.  It was a weapon.  I loved throwing since I was a kid and I made a name for myself with it after turning pro.  I think it is one of the most important things for a catcher.

You did have the option to go under the knife.

Yes, of course.  The Tigers also mentioned that.  But like I said before, I decided that if I earned my high salary without doing much over a two-year period, it would be time for me to take the uniform off.

When did you inform the team?

Earlier this month.  I had made the decision in August, once I knew I would not be able to return as a catcher.  It was not until this month after the team was eliminated from the playoffs that I told them I was going to take the uniform off.  The team also asked if I would like to get behind the plate one last time at Koshien tomorrow (9/29).  The manager also asked me to come.  But Hiroshima is still competing for a spot in the playoffs and I do not want them to waste one out or one strike.  I told them I would be fine playing my last game at Naruohama.  And so my last game will be at Naruohama.

Do you want to coach?

I have not thought about it.  I do not think I will do that for at least four or five years.  And I will not do anything in the media (analyst, commentator) either.

What was it like playing for the Tigers over the last three years?

During my first year I could really feel the expectations from the fans.  I really wanted to do more here.

You will be suiting up for tomorrow's (9/29) game.

I wonder if I still remember how to put the gear on...  I am looking forward to it.  A chance to get all my catching equipment out for the first time in a while.  I would like my children to see that.  I would also like the fans to see it as well.

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UPDATE @ 6:06pm - 1,717 fans were in attendance for Jojima's Ni-gun retirement game.  Source: Sponichi 9/29/2012

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UPDATE 9/30 @ 2:21amDaily Sports is carrying Jojima's last post-game interview (from Saturday's game).

What are you feeling now that your retirement game is over?

I made the decision quite a while back ago so.  I am of course sad, but I appreciate each and every person that made it out to Naruohama today.  To play for this long and to have the fans watch my last game makes me a happy baseball player, then on the other hand, tomorrow, I no longer have to wake up by a certain time, I can drink alcohol, and I no longer have to do weight training or go out running.

You caught a game for the first time in a while.  What was the view like behind the mask?

The view made me think that this was what my career was about.  I did not feel emotional, since it had not been that long ago, but it reminded that this is where I made it.  I did not forget my routines as a hitter or as a catcher, it felt like business as usual.

The last batter struck out.  Was that what you were going for?

Not really.  I went with instinct, I looked at the swing as a catcher.  But I think the batter may have been knew.  Akiyama also threw a good pitch.

You hit a RBI single to center in your last at bat.

The pitcher may have tried to accommodate a little, but my first pro hit was a single to center.  And it also drove in a run.  And my last hit as a single to center...  For eighteen years I fell away from the basics and pulled everything.  Now that I am retiring, I was easily able to do it the right way.

What kind of at bat were you envisioning before you stepped into the batter's box?

Nothing really.  I just wanted to swing the bat hard.

The other players tossed you up into the air.

I felt embarrassed.  And everyone came even though it was a travel day.  And the pitchers, they came and it made me happy because I am always so critical of them.

What did you tell the players?

Do not get hurt.

<Informal interview with reporters>

Before the game, you played some catch with Kyuji.

He came out wearing his uniform.  He said, "Joe-san, let us play catch."  He is not at 100%.  I told him not to worry about it.  But then he said he wanted to at least play catch with me.  I am a happy guy. Really happy.

You threw while sitting.

The baseball player in me made me throw and I felt pain.  I can not even hold a fishing pole.  I am finished with baseball, but I may still have surgery.

You were throwing the ball pretty well.

They said I was pretending!  That it did not really hurt...  But seriously, it hurt.  It brought me back to reality it hurt so much.

You stopped a ball in the dirt.

I can not move my legs to either side, that is the reality of it.

First pitch and a passed ball.

I did not think [the batter] was going to swing and miss.  That got me going a little.

On catching for the first time in a long while.

A lot goes on [back there].  Talk to the umpire.  While having a conversation you check where the batter is standing.  And you try to figure out big the umpire's strike zone is.  I have done this for eighteen years, well more like thirty.  As a baseball player, or more as a catcher.  Catching a game felt normal.

You finish with 1,837 hits between the NPB and MLB.  Are you happy with your stats?

I wanted to get a hit in every trip to the plate.  The numbers, I may have wanted to get to 2,000 if I was closer to it, but right now, at this stage of retiring because I cannot catch, I do not feel any regrets over any of my trips to the plate.  The numbers are just ordinary though.  I am not satisfied with them.

You were tearing up when you received the flowers...

That, that was not tears.  No tears at all.  That does not count.  But getting my kids out there, that is unfair!

Your family had a chance to watch your last game...

As a baseball player, it is the ultimate happiness.  Their presence pushed me forward and there were times when that really helped me.  I need to repay them.  Being the wife of a baseball player is not easy.  I think I will give my wife a choice.  If he wants me healthy and out of the house, I will have to find some place to go like before.  And I can not always go out fishing.  If she wants me to stay at home, that is fine as well.  I think I will have her decide.

Was tossing you up in the air the player's idea?

I did not want them to do it, but Kyuji said he came just for that.  I really did not want to delay the game.  You have to think about the other team's pitcher.  Getting tossed into the air made me happy and that everyone felt that way also made me happy.  [They did it] even though I decided to quit without doing much of anything for this organization...  What a great organization.  Good players, good place, and good fans.  I am lucky that I am taking the uniform off as a member of this organization.  It made me think that coming to Hanshin was not the wrong thing to do.

You touched home plate before the start of the game.

It is part of my routine.  I usually say something about not wanting to get hurt, but I left that out.  I thought it would be ok if I got hurt since it was my last game.  Then I threw the ball as hard as I could to second.  I hurt myself pretty bad.  I do not want to hold a baseball for a year.  My elbow really hurts.  It felt numb.  But it hung in there.  My elbow and my shoulder.

<End of interview with reporters>

Please do not look for me beginning tomorrow.

Hanshin Tigers: Kenji Jojima retirement press conference interview

by on Sep.29, 2012 @ 1:10 am, under NPB
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The Hanshin Tigers have posted Kenji Jojima's retirement press conference interview:

I, Kenji Jojima, have decided to retire from baseball at the end of the season.

Could you please tell us how you feel right now?

Everyone gets a press conference when they join a team, but only a small handful get retirement press conferences so I think I must have at least left a small mark on baseball.

When did you decide to retire?

When I had surgery on my back in May this year, I knew there was a chance I would not be able to make a comeback as a catcher this season.  That played a role in the decision.  And when I found out for certain that I would not be able to return as a catcher, sometime around the end of the All-Star break, I spoke to the team.  But they told me they wanted me to do what I could to rehab and return to the active roster since the team still had a shot at the Climax Series.  And now here we are.

Is being a catcher your strongest conviction?

I am a catcher.  And I think it was because I was a catcher that I was able to wear the uniform for eighteen years.  It helped me go to the Majors and it got me here to the Tigers.  I always felt and said that it would be time to take the uniform off if I got to the point where I could no longer catch.  Because of my knee injury, I had to start the year at first instead of catcher.  I was hoping to return to catcher little by little after the All-Star break and hopefully get back to a point where I could catch an entire game toward the end of the season.  I held onto that hope as I rehabbed.  But honestly, I already decided that I would take the uniform off if I could not get back to a point where I might be able to return as catcher by September.  I decided to retire because I did not want to lie to the Tigers, to the fans, and to myself by playing first while still trying.

With one year still left on your four-year deal, was your biggest reason because you did not want to lie to the fans?

In America, they would not let me play even though I wanted to and so I signed with the Tigers.  They gave me a four year deal but I thought if I could not play properly for two years, it would be time for me to quit. They gave me a four-year deal because they trusted me.  But I broke that trust and now I am doing the best I can to take responsibility in the eyes of both the fans and team.

When you made your decision, whom did you tell first?

I told my family.  I told my wife and kids that I was taking the uniform off at the end of the season.

How did your family react?

My kids are still young so they did not really understand, but they were happy to know that I will be at home.  My wife said I had a nice run and should rest now.

Did you contact your mentor, Softbank Hawks' chairman [Sadaharu] Oh?

Yes, I did.  He told me that he could understand my feelings about catching, but that with only one career, he asked if I did not want to try a different position.  I got my start as a catcher under Oh, I am a catcher, I told him if the time came when I could no longer catch, I would take the uniform off.

Do you have any moments you remember the most over your eighteen year career?

I have many, but I treasure all the titles pitchers on my team won with me catching.  As a catcher, I appreciate all the pitchers that worked hard for the team, for the game the next day, even when there was no victory to be had, or there was no match.

Was not being able to play in any games during the times you rehabbed over the last two years the most difficult?

Well, during times I was injured or going through tough stretches, Oh used to tell me that tests/trials only came to people that could surpass them.  I got past each and grew as a player.  But this last injury, it was a wall that was too big and it made feel as if I were at my limits as a catcher.  More than that, I feel extremely disappointed that I could not come through for the staff, the trainers, and all the fans that supported me at Naruohama by returning to Koshien Stadium.

You are retiring at the age of thirty-six, do you have regrets?

I am a catcher and I always prepared myself not to have any regrets each time I made a decision, so I do not linger on what I should have done, or could have done.  There are mistakes, but I feel that I have made the right decisions and baseball has been a part of me for close to thirty years.  I am proud at how I was able to work so hard at this one thing and still like baseball so much now.  And I think I might begin to hate baseball if I were to continue playing next year despite knowing that I would not be able to catch.  When I retire, I want to be able to watch pro yakyu with my kids, I want to be able to watch it if it is on TV.  Because I do not want to live life without baseball, I decided to retire as a catcher.

Right now, do you feel pride as a catcher?

Yes.  When I started playing baseball, when I turned pro, I hated being a catcher and wanted to change positions as soon as possible.  There was a time I wanted to quit being a catcher.  So it does feel a little odd that I am quitting baseball because I wanted to be a catcher the last two years.  That my parents gave me an opportunity to play baseball, that I had a chance to be a catcher, I think this was the happiest thing in my life.

You will soon begin the next chapter of your left.  Has anything been decided?  Is there anything you would like to do?

I will go to my kids' sports day the day after tomorrow.  Other than that, nothing else has been decided.

Will you go to the ocean as well?

Of course!

And finally, a message for all the fans across the country.

Thank you for all your support over the last eighteen years.  It was a very good eighteen years.  But I am disappointed that I could not take the field in front of the 50,000 cheering supporters at Koshien over the last two years.  Other than that, it was a very good baseball career and I am thankful for the chances to meet wonderful people.  I had all kinds of surgeries and injuries, but I am able to take the uniform off while still loving baseball.  I am sure each of the wounds will become medals as I grow older.  It was the kind of wonderful career that I can brag about to my children and grandchildren while drink sake.

Thank you very much.

There were also some sections not included in the above, but were included in other reports.

Jojima's comment after receiving flowers, via Daily Sports: "Um...  excuse me.  I taught my son that men can cry in front of people just three times [in their life].  The first time I cried was when I won a championship, the second time, is now...  I cried here.  I will change that to four times."

Regarding a retirement game, via Nikkan Sports: "They asked if I wanted to suit up at Koshien tomorrow (9/29), but Hiroshima is trying for the Climax Series.  If I can suit up at Naruohama, that is enough for me."

Hanshin Tigers: Kenji Jojima set to retire after season with one year left on contract

by on Sep.28, 2012 @ 8:17 am, under NPB
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According to a report by Sanspo, Kenji Jojima is set to retire after the season with one year left on his contract -- a number of unnamed team officials have confirmed that he approached the team.

Jojima returned to Japan after the 2009 season and signed a four-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers.  He had a solid first year in 2010, but a left knee injury during the season marked the beginning of the end.

When Jojima had knee surgery after the 2010 season, there was still hope that he could return to catching duties at some point in the future.  But that hope slowly started to fade when he developed problems in his right elbow and left knee, possibly due to overcompensation because of the weaker left knee.

He started taking grounders at first after he had his left knee cleaned out in August 2011.  He then needed surgery for a herniated lumbar disc earlier this year in May.

When Sankei Sports asked Jojima earlier this month on the 16th if he planned on winning a starting job next year, he said, "That is not something I can talk about right now.  I am currently just trying to make a comeback.  I will talk about that stuff when I arrive at the bridge."

An official announcement could be made as early as today.

Source: Sanspo 9/28/2012, Nikkan Sports 9/28/2012, Sports Hochi 9/28/2012

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UPDATE @ 8:22am - Daily Sports is reporting that a press conference will be held later today.

UPDATE @ 11:32am - More updates...

Sponichi has posted a timeline of injuries:

November 9, 2010 - left knee surgery, six months for recovery

June 10, 2011 - removed from active roster with right elbow pain, two weeks of rest

August 7, 2011 - left knee and right elbow evaluation in US

August 16, 2011 - left knee cleaning, right elbow still not 100%

February 1, 2012 - talk about playing first and catcher, workout at first during spring camp

May 11, 2012 - taken off active roster with sciatica

May 22, 2012 - surgery for herniated lumbar disc

August 10, 2012 - plays in a Ni-gun intra-squad rehab game, followed by playing in a regular season Ni-gun game against Orix on the 16th.

August 21, 2012 - left knee strain while playing defense in a rehab game

August 22, 2012 - evaluated at hospital and diagnosed with a popliteus muscle strain.  Needs crutches to get around, no timetable on recovery.

September 19, 2012 - played in Ni-gun rehab game and went 0-for-2.

Other notes:

  • Jojima worked out with the rest of the Ni-gun players on Thursday.  He also went 4-for-5 during a Ni-gun two-game series against Softbank on Monday and Tuesday.  At the time, he was looking forward to a possible call-up.  Source: Sponichi 9/28/2012
  • Jojima reportedly made the decision to retire some time earlier this month and started telling people close to him of his plans a few days ago.  The reason for wanting to retire likely has to do with his inability to play at a level he can be satisfied with.  Source: Sponichi 9/28/2012
  • Jojima may have decided to officially retire when the Ichi-gun team was eliminated from the Climax Series, but was already thinking retirement in May.  The Tigers also suggested they hold a retirement ceremony for him during Friday's game against Hiroshima, but he declined the honor because he felt it would be inappropriate since the Carp are still in the middle of competing for a spot at the Climax Series.  Source: Daily Sports 9/28/2012
  • The Tigers' Ni-gun game against Orix on Saturday will be Jojima's "retirement game."  Source: Sponichi 9/28/2012

UPDATE @ 11:49am - Kokubo spoke to reporters and said that Jojima told him over the phone on Thursday that he actually decided to retire back in May.  Source: Sponichi 9/28/2012

UPDATE @ 2:25pm - The Tigers have posted an official announcement at their team web site.

Hanshin Tigers: Kenji Jojima diagnosed with left popliteus muscle strain

by on Aug.22, 2012 @ 6:09 pm, under NPB
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Kenji Jojima was taken to the hospital after he hurt his left knee while playing defense in a Ni-gun game against Chunichi on Tuesday -- with a runner on second and two out in the 2nd inning, he reacted on a ball hit between first and second; he stopped partway in order to return to first, but lost his balance and fell.  Source: Sanspo 8/22/2012Sponichi 8/22/2012

The Tigers announced today that Jojima was diagnosed with a strain in his left popliteus muscle.  Team trainer Yasunori Gonda added that there were no issues with the meniscus or any of the surrounding ligaments and cartilage (which would be a good thing since he has had surgery for a meniscal tear in the past).

Jojima currently needs crutches in order to get around and will need to focus on resting his knee.  His rehab schedule will be decided during a re-evaluation on August 28.

Source: Sponichi 8/22/2012

He received treatment for his knee at the Naruohama training facilities today.  Source: Daily Sports 8/22/2012

Injury Updates 8/21/2012: Uchikawa (SOF), Kuriyama (SEI), Asamura (SEI), Teppei (RAK), Jojima (HAN), Eldred (HIR)

by on Aug.21, 2012 @ 11:58 pm, under NPB
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Softbank Hawks

Seiichi Uchikawa was left out of the starting line-up tonight because of the jammed right ring finger he suffered during Sunday's game against the Orix Buffaloes.  The Hawks will continue to monitor Uchikawa and will make decisions on his status as needed.  He was able to take batting and fielding practice before the game.  Source: Nikkan Sports 8/21/2012, Sponichi 8/21/2012

Seibu Lions

Takumi Kuriyama took an HBP off his left arm in the 8th inning of today's game against the Softbank Hawks (Masahiro Morifuku was on the mound).  He was promptly replaced by a pinch-runner and taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a left ulna fracture.  No word on how long he will be out.  This effectively ends his streak of playing in every inning of every game at 390.  Source: Sponichi 8/21/2012

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Hideto Asamura took an HBP off his head in the 9th inning of today's game against the Softbank Hawks (Akihiro Yanase was on the mound) and was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a contusion on the left side of his head.  Source: Jiji 8/21/2012

Rakuten Eagles

Teppei took a Hisashi Kawata line drive off his left middle finger (and left shoulder) while sitting in the dugout in the bottom of the 2nd.  Teppei was replaced by Aoi Enomoto and taken to the hospital where X-Rays came back negative for broken bones.  He did lose a nail and was diagnosed with a contusion.

Teppei later spoke to reporters and told them he should be ok for tomorrow.

Source: Daily Sports 8/21/2012, Nikkan Sports 8/21/2012, Sports Hochi 8/21/2012

Hashin Tigers

Kenji Jojima played in a Ni-gun rehab game against Chunichi today (started at first and batted fifth) but left the game after hurting his left knee.  No word out how serious the injury was.  Source: Sanspo 8/21/2012

Hiroshima Carp

Brad Eldred was not in the starting line-up today because his right elbow is giving him problems.  The Carp will continue to monitor his elbow and make decisions on his status as needed -- it is possible he may miss an extended amount of time.  Source: Sanspo 8/21/2012

Hanshin Tigers: June 21, 2012

by on Jun.21, 2012 @ 6:07 pm, under NPB
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Kyuji Fujikawa started playing catch today -- for about ten minutes, in the bullpen (because of the weather), on flat ground.  Source: Daily Sports 6/21/2012

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Akihito Fujii (right hamstring) threw out a runner trying to steal second in the 3rd inning of Wednesday's Ikusei game against Yamato Takada Club (Industrial League).  Source: Sports Hochi Osaka 6/21/2012

Fujii joined the Ichi-gun players for workouts today at Koshien.  Source: Daily Sports 6/21/2012

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USA-based scout Andy Sheets told reporters today that he felt Matt Murton was beginning to come around with his hitting.

"Watching him today (June 20), he looked good out there.  I think things will get better for him again. ... It is about keeping things simple.  This is not really advice, but just something I mentioned to him when talking about baseball," said Sheets.

Source: Nikkan Sports 6/21/2012 

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Possible closer candidates: Shinobu FukuharaDaiki EnokidaKazuya Tsutsui, and Tomoyuki Kubota. Source: Sports Hochi Osaka 6/21/2012

Daily Sports reports that Enokida was selected to take on the closer job.

Sanspo notes that it is Enokida's job for the time being.

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Kenji Jojima worked out at the Naruohama training facilities today -- he walked outdoors for about thirty minutes and then did some trunk and gluteal training exercises indoors.  Jojima will train in the pool on Friday.  Source: Daily Sports 6/21/2012

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Yasutomo KuboKazuhito Futagami, and Takumi Akiyama will make starts during a three game series against Ni-gun Orix that begins on Friday.  Source: Daily Sports 6/21/2012

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Akiyama joined the Ichi-gun players for workouts today and threw fifty pitches in the bullpen under the watchful eyes of Yutaka Wada and pitching coaches Keiichi Yabu and Takashi Yamaguchi.  Source: Nikkan Sports 6/21/2012

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Ikusei pitcher Robert Zarate faced ten batters during situational batting practice on Wednesday and gave up five could hits.  Ni-gun pitchers Shingo Matsuzaki and Hirokazu Shiranita also made appearances during situational batting practice: each faced ten batters, Matsuzaki gave up two hits and struck out two while Shiranita allowed two hits and walked one.  Source: Sanspo 6/21/2012

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Ryo Asai joined the Ichi-gun players for workouts on Wednesday and got two at bats during situational batting practice: fly out to left, ground out to short.  Source: Sanspo 6/21/2012

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The Tigers plan to place more emphasis on hitting for average than hitting for power when scouting new talent overseas.  Source: Nikkan Sports 6/21/2012

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The Tigers are thinking about offering Olympic Gold Medalist (wrestling) Saori Yoshida a chance to throw out a ceremonial first pitch some time after the Olympics.  Source: Sports Hochi Osaka 6/21/2012

Hanshin Tigers: Kenji Jojima to undergo surgery

by on May.16, 2012 @ 4:32 pm, under NPB
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According to Daily Sports, the Hanshin Tigers announced today that Kenji Jojima will have surgery to remove a herniated disk from his back some time next week.

Jojima current has no feeling in his left leg and is in no condition to play.  The surgery should fix the problems with his leg and will give him a chance to return to the active roster this year.

According to doctors, Jojima will need to wear a brace for at least a month.  If no setbacks, he might be able to start baseball drills shortly thereafter.

UPDATE @ 6:02pm - Sponichi and Nikkan Sports confirm the story.

UPDATE 5/17 @ 5:22pm - The earliest Jojima might be able to return is sometime in August or September.

Hanshin Tigers: Kenji Jojima taken off active roster

by on May.11, 2012 @ 4:37 pm, under NPB
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According to Daily SportsKenji Jojima was taken off the active roster today with tightness in his left buttock.  A second Daily Sports report mentions sciatica.

"There is no specific play that caused it.  It happened little by little.  Jojima has some tingling in his left buttock," said the team's chief trainer.

Jojima is currently getting treatment in Fukuoka and is scheduled to begin his rehab early next week.