The Golden Golds’ head coach and general manager, Kinichi Hagimoto, clowned around for some Japanese journalists while the team held a light workout Monday afternoon at Midway Stadium.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Saints, Golden Golds vie for last laugh

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS
  • Star Tribune
  • April 29, 2008 - 3:04 AM
The organization that once offered fans the faces of Bud Selig and Donald Fehr on a seat cushion and later this season will hold a "bobblefoot" giveaway in conjunction with National Tap Dance Day -- make your own political connection here -- tonight will meet its match, fresh off a plane from some 6,000 miles away.

While legit baseball will be played, some laughs are likely along the way, as well. After all, the Golden Golds -- an amateur baseball team from Ibaraki, Japan -- are owned and managed by renowned Japanese comedian Kinichi Hagimoto. During games, the 66-year-old has been known to grab a microphone and entertain the crowd. At home games, when the Golden Golds score, a hula dancer cuts a rug.

Hagimoto has heard of the Saints -- the two teams played each other in Japan in 2006 -- and their sometimes off-the-wall promotions and in-game antics.

He can't wait to compare notes.

"You could say this is the Funniest World Series," Hagimoto said Monday through an interpreter. "When the Saints came to Japan, there was a lot of laughter. So now we want to come here and see what it is all about. Which [team] is funnier?

"We want to learn how to make it double funny."

Shortly after finishing a teamwide smoke break in the Midway Stadium parking lot Monday afternoon, the Golden Golds took the field for a light workout, but not before players and personnel alike snapped photographs and video of everything from inquiring reporters to passing trains to the collage of outfield advertisements. Everything was documented.

That said, the Saints are hoping for some good competition when it takes on the Golden Golds.

"We wouldn't do something like this if it didn't make baseball sense," Saints General Manager Derek Sharrer said, admitting the club has received some grief for its "goofy promotions" over the years.

Aside from the raw temperatures, most of the talk Monday among the contingent from Ibaraki -- located about 90 miles northeast of Tokyo -- was excitement in seeing how the Saints put on a game.

"We heard the St. Paul Saints is a team the community supports," said Shuji Yoshida, a 41-year-old pitcher with Japanese major league experience. "It is about the same for us. This team is excited to be here."

The Golden Golds are made up of former professional players, comedians and one female: Ayumi Kataoka, a 21-year-old backup at second base who feels anything but intimidated.

"I wanted to learn a higher level of baseball, so I went to a tryout," she said of making the team. "I feel I am a baseball player. I don't see any difference."

Saints manager George Tsamis said everyone will find out together tonight what kind of baseball to expect.

"Obviously, this isn't something that happens every day," he said.

Brian Stensaas • 612-673-4127

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