For Players and Agents 

RE: Playing Baseball in Japan

As to the question about playing in Japan, allow me to meld my thoughts with those from Dan Latham, a contributor to this site.

There are 12 Japanese big league teams, each having one minor league team, so there arenít nearly as many slots available for players in Japan as there are in Major League Baseball and its minor leagues.

Further, each Japanese team opens only a handful of roster spots to foreign players. And foreign doesn't simply mean players from the United States, but includes players from other baseball playing countries such as Taiwan, Korea, and some Latin American nations.

Major League Baseball scouts tend to categorize Japanese pro baseball as AAAA. Meaning itís a step above AAA and a step below the big leagues. Itís extremely competitive play.

Japanese clubs, as a rule, look at former Major League players or those whoíve been successful in AAA (or possibly AA) and who might be on the bubble of the big leagues.  They want players who can contribute right now and are not terribly interested in foreign prospects. They want proven pro ballplayers.

Native Japanese players generally are strong on defense and good at contact hitting. However, few have the power to hit more than ten or fifteen home runs a season. So teams often look for foreign players who can hit for power. If a player is a fast base-runner or good with a glove, that's an added benefit, but usually not the selling point.

Catchers and middle infielders are in low demand. Thereís too much potential for communication problems. Second basemen and shortstops are typically not power hitters, and most teams would prefer to use Japanese players in those positions. For the most part Japanese teams want foreign outfielders, first basemen and third basemen.

When selecting foreign pitchers, teams may be more flexible. Since few Japanese pitchers throw over 95 miles per hour, teams are often impressed by foreign pitchers who throw hard. But those with control problems don't last long. Even if a foreign pitcher doesn't throw hard, teams will often give him a look if he has good control and was successful at AAA.

Some Japanese teams use part-time scouts in the U.S. to recommend players. Others will send a full-time scout to the U.S. for a few weeks during the summer to look for players for the following season.

If youíve not played in AA, AAA or MLB you probably have no real chance at Japan.  In that event you might consider tracking down information about one of the independent leagues in the United States or clubs in Italy, Mexico, Taiwan or something along those lines.

Players have asked if they can contact the teams in Japan directly to give them their personal data. You can do that, though I think it may be a waste of your resources since, as I mentioned, the Japanese scout baseball in the United States and elsewhere.

However, if you're convinced that you've been overlooked and want to take a shot at sending them your info, then you might consider getting the Japan Baseball Media Guide.

You can get info on the guide by going to:

In the Japan Baseball Media Guide you'll find a great deal of contact information for each ballclub, including the names of their foreign representatives who speak English.

What tends to be true here is that players with the ability to play in Japan have already played in the high levels of pro ball somewhere and have agents.

And so, for you agents serious about getting a player placed, I suggest that you show the Japanese that you are indeed serious.

Presuming you don't speak Japanese or have Japanese baseball contacts, get yourself an interpreter.  They can be found in most any city. Then, together with your interpreter and the contact info in the Media guide, set about calling each club on behalf of your client. 

While not as quick or initially effective as a phone call, you can always send a letter in Japanese with your player's info.

The more you're willing and able to do in Japanese the better chance your player has, all other things being equal.