America, the next big thing is here. My brother Justin and I have decided that it’s time cool guys (& of course gals!) get the credit and admiration for being cool. That’s why we’re starting the #StangelsCoolGuyClub.
Last night on Twitter, we inducted the very first member of the #StangelsCoolGuyClub, Mr. John Stamos. The while the hashtag didn’t trend, it did get 3 whole RTs and 10 favorites, which is on par with that Ellen selfie from the Oscars.
Back to Stamos. We don’t know John, but we think he’d be cool to hang with. In fact we know he would. Seems like the kind of person who you would end up playing in a drum circle with on a beach at sunrise.
Here’s a fun fact about John Stamos. He shares a birthday with Fred Thompson, the actor who always played a senator, then became a senator. (Sorry Fred, you’re not in the #StangelsCoolGuyClub… yet)
John Stamos, you are cool. And you are in the club.
Now I don’t want people to start being all “Hey, I’m cool. Can I be in the club?” If you ask, you ain’t in.
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Back in 2006, right handed pitcher Tony Barnette was taken in the 10th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played in the Diamondbacks system for 4 seasons, then signed with Japan’s Yakult Swallows. He’s now finishing his 5th season in Japan.
Tony, who is a great follow on Twitter (@HeyBarn) was nice enough to answer a few questions about life, baseball and being stranded without an interpreter.
Q: Years ago, I worked in Japan for 3 weeks, covering the 1998 Olympics. It’s very different than the United States. Any stories about getting used to living in Japan?
A: Nothing crazy, it’s a big lifestyle adjustment and it’s best served to sit back and observe for awhile. 5 years in, and I’m still making adjustments.
Q: The most amazing thing I remember from my trip is the heated toilet. Big question- do you have a heated toilet?
A: Even bigger question- while on said toilet, did you push any of the buttons? The heated seat is that thing while growing up in The cold northwest I wished I’d had. I do have a heated toilet seat in my apartment. I’m actually buying one for my house back home.
Q: I remember it was hard to find good breakfast in Japan. What else is it hard to find?
A: A good “American style” breakfast is a tough find, no doubt. The beauty of the internet makes it easy to get anything. I can’t recall needing something here that I haven’t been able to find or buy on the internet.
Q: What’s the best meal you’ve had in Japan?
A: That’s tough, I love food and Japan comes at you with a ton of great food from every corner of the map. After 10 minutes of thinking, I can’t pin down one favorite. Sorry. But my “go to” road trip meal is find a ramen shop, order a bowl of spicy miso ramen, a bowl of fried rice and a plate of gyoza (dumplings)
Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen sold in a vending machine?
A: Umbrellas. They aren’t common but they are out there. Rain can be sneaky here.
Q: Ever need a translator and not have one?
A: Story of my life over here. There have been plenty of moments I’ll be out on the town and I run into a situation where I don’t speak enough Japanese and they don’t speak enough English. It usually ends with us staring at each other awkwardly for a few minutes, I then apologize, and move onto the next place. Sometimes over here you just have to cut your losses. Can’t win em all. My wife took Japanese language classes a few years back, which has helped in this area since. I’ve also become a professional charades player.
Q: In your 5 years playing in Japan, who is the best pitcher and hitter you have seen?
A: I’m leaving foreign players and the Japanese players already in the states off this list. Best pitcher- Chihiro Kaneko.
You may see his name come stateside soon, he’s a lot like Iwakuma of the Mariners in my opinion. The best hitter is Yosio Itoi,
I think he’s the best all round player right now in the NPB. (Honorable mention- Shohei Otani, thie kid’s talents are ridiculous)
Q: What advice would you give an American player who was thinking of playing in Japan?
A: Best advice I could give a guy is be open minded, prepare to be frustrated, just play hard. I can’t tell you how many guys come over with the same song and dances about the way it’s done in America. The Japanese have been playing their type of baseball for a long time, you aren’t going to change it. Adapt or die.
Q: How is a crowd different at a Japanese baseball game? Is it true they don’t boo?
A: They don’t give the traditional boo sound. BUT if you aren’t playing to their standard, they will inform you. The crowds are really fun to watch. They get loud from the first pitch and it doesn’t stop until the game is over. They have different songs for different players. It’s a treat to see live.
Q: My brother Justin and I are on an quest to throw out a first pitch in Japan. Is it true that word has gotten around about it in Japan and it’s all people are talking about?
A: I think you guys are just behind the iPhone 6 release on the nightly news reports. Ok, that’s a lie, I’m sorry. I’ve heard about your quest, but I honestly have no idea how you can accomplish it. Maybe learn Japanese, and start a hashtag campaign? There was a girl who wore a bikini last year and a girl broke a bunch of bricks with her head this year. Got anything to top that?
Q: We will consider any option.
A: Thanks for reaching out, I always enjoy sharing my views from the other side of the world. Take care and best of luck on that first pitch.
There are 12 teams in the NPB. We have been in contact with a few of them. Last week, the Chiba Lotte Marines gave us a very polite “Thanks for your interest” rejection letter. I don’t fault them for saying no. They have a business to run and don’t need some guys in New York begging to play baseball player for a day.
Just heard back from an official from the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles. They are the defending champions and currently have on their roster former MLBers Andruw Jones and Kevin Youkilis.
Anyway, the word from the Eagles is… there IS a way of getting this done.
Interestingly enough, they sell their first pitches as part of a corporate sponsorship. A company can pay to have “Your Product Here Night” at the ballpark where they get to send whoever they want to throw out the first pitch. A CEO or a mascot, or maybe perhaps two comedy writers from New York?
So, technically, this isn’t a no. Justin and I can throw the first pitch for the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles… if we pay $25,000-$30,000. And when we write the check, they would make it Stangel Night at the park. We’re considering it.*
*(We’re not considering it. We just wanted to sound like big shots.)
The next logical question is- Why don’t you do a Kickstarter campaign? We’re not going to go that route. The people shouldn’t have to pay for something like this. The people who run large corporations and want a nice fun PR story associated with them, on the other hand…
And have I mentioned how much I enjoy Rakuten’s Global Market website http://global.rakuten.com/en/ which is run by the strong and handsome Hiroshi Mikitani?
After spending six seasons in the MLB with the Cardinals and Brewers, Chris Narveson signed in 2014 to pitch with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Chris was kind enough to let me waste his time with some questions about Japanese baseball and the Stangel Brothers’ quest to throw out a first pitch in Japan.
Q: How is your first season going with the Yakult Swallows?
A: First season is going great. Although our record hasn’t been that great we have a good nucleus on the team and I think that in next few years they will be competing for the playoffs.
Q: What did you know about Japanese baseball when you were offered the chance to play there?
A: I knew enough about it from former teammates of Nori Aoki and Takashi Saito. I also conversed with Casey McGhee and Nyjer Morgan on what to expect while over here.
Q: Do you speak Japanese?
A: I don’t speak any Japanese but they appoint us an interpreter to help with on field translations. Off the field I have picked up basic language skills from being over here to function but definitely not enough to have a conversation.
Q: Do you always have a translator with you? And have you ever needed a translator and not had one?
A: You learn to function without the translator but there may be times where you need them. If that’s the case they are just a phone call away.
Q: What was the hardest thing to get used to?
A: Hardest thing to get used to was the different style of play and understanding the hitters. In the states guys are always trying to hit a HR even with 2 strikes. Here the Japanese guys are more contact oriented.
Q: What do you miss about the United States?
A: I miss seeing friends and family at the game, but my family and fiancé have been able to travel over here a few times to spend some quality with each other.
Q: Any stories about what it was like to adjust to life in Japan?
A: No real crazy stories about adjusting to life. It is a great country that has a set standard on how to act and treat authority. It is amazing the respect that is shown here for people that are older. Respect for others with regards to talking on the phone, smoking in public and general transportation is amazing. Definitely is something that the US has lost over the years.
Q: Who are some of the best players in NPB that maybe we in the states haven’t heard about?
A: Best players are probably a guy named Shohei Ohtani who is a pitcher for Nippon-Ham Fighters. He can run it up to high 90s and also a very good hitter too. Kenta Maeda is a name that will be known in the US as he plans to become a free agent at the end of the year. As far as hitters there are many good hitters but they focus on contact and playing the game a certain way rather then trying to always hit a HR. Shinnosuke Abe the catcher for the Giants is probably one of top hitters who generally is a .300 hitter and around 30 HRs each year usually.
Q: Do you need me to send you anything?
A: And no I’m good thank you though. Tokyo is like a nicer NYC. Clean and quiet without the big city feel. You can get pretty much anything here too so I’m good. Thanks!!
Q: Okay, more importantly now- how the hell can my brother Justin & I throw out the first pitch at a Yakult Swallows game?
A: As far as your first pitch not sure if that would be possible ha.
Q: They do the first pitch tradition a bit differently in Japan. What are some of the stranger ones you’ve seen?
A: They do some unique things but most are pertinent to there culture. Obviously some are unique to us but normal to them.
Q: Will it make a difference that my brother will be wearing an Elvis jumpsuit?
A: I don’t think they would understand an Elvis outfit.
Q: If we vow to be Tokyo Yakult Swallows fans for life, do you think that will make a difference?
A: I don’t think being a Yakult fan would matter. Even though they are unique they are very traditional and respectful in the things they do. They don’t tend to venture away from that at all.
Q: Can I bribe you to get this done?
A: Bribes probably would not help Haha sorry
Q: Well, I tried. Thanks for your time.
Here’s an update on our quest to throw out the first pitch at a Japanese Baseball game.
We see a lot of positives here. They find our proposal “intriguing.” They didn’t immediately dismiss the idea. Apparently, there were high-powered meetings where they sat at a large table and debated the pros and cons of our quest.
They will “have to pass this time.” Leaves hope for the future. Maybe we can get an airline to jump in and they’ll become heroes by picking up the travel expenses. Perhaps a fancy hotel wants to show how they help create memories by givin us a bitchin’ suite! This isn’t a no.
Finally, “Please keep us in mind in the future,” This ain’t a blow off. The way we see it, this could be the start of a relationship.
Meanwhile, we have been in contact with other teams. The season is coming to an end soon. But the end of the season doesn’t mean the end of the dream…