Joe Steinberg from Burnsville sent along this eyewitness account of a scouting mission to watch Tsuyoshi Nishioka play in the Japan League:
"My son Kyle and I went to a Hanshin Tigers' game last night to watch All-Star second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka-san play. How did he return to All-Star status so quickly, you ask?
It was obvious to us that there were five small things overlooked by the Twins' scouts when they signed him:
1-He plays on an all dirt infield in Japan and thus can't lose routine ground balls in the grass.
2-He has a Japanese-speaking hitting coach to constantly remind him to keep his feet 'in' in the batter's box when he swings the bat. He does that here.
3-He likes wearing his number, 7, and not having some other "slugger'' wearing it.
4-Japanese baseball fans have organized and loud cheers for each player when he's at bat. Nishi badly missed his cheers in Minnesota; obviously, the boos didn't work.
5-When you play baseball in Japan, your batting average can go up by 50 points or more. Nishi is now batting .278.''
Thanks, Joe, for the Nishi update. The latest numbers I was able to find on our old friend were .277, two home runs, 18 RBI in 267 at-bats. He had played in 65 of the Tigers' 66 games.
Nishioka was a runaway leader in the competition to be the Central League's starting second baseman in the Japan League's All-Star series. In recent years, Japan has started having three All-Star games, scheduled during a one-week break in the regular schedule in mid-July.
Steinberg had one other note to offer from his trip to a Japanese ballgame:
"The Japanese have come up with a novel way to sell and serve beer at their baseball games: Attractive and strong young ladies walk around with kegs on their back. Don't ever let the Vikings see this. They'd have their cheerleaders pulling double-duty all game long.''
Joe sent along this photo of a woman vendor humping her keg through the stands: