By BOB SAN
AAP staff writer
The 2010 Major League Baseball season got underway Sunday, April 4 when Boston beat New York 9 to 7.
There are several interesting Asian and Asian American players to keep an eye on this year. Here are a few players to keep up with in the box scores or to go see them play when they come to Minnesota.
Donald Wakamatsu, Seattle Mariners
Wakamatsu, a native of Hayward, CA, made history last year when he became the first Asian American to be named manager of a Major League club when hired prior to the 2009 season as Manager of the Seattle Mariners. He was 85-77 in his first season, a Major League best 24-game improvement over 2008.
Wakamatsu and the Mariners have high expectations this season with acquisitions of starting pitcher Cliff Lee, all-star third baseman Chone Figgins and talented but problematic outfielder Milton Bradley. Of course, the Mariners already have future Hall of Famers Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr. in the line-up so Seattle will be a team to be reckoned with this season.
Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
Fukudome, who cost the Cubs a boatload of money, started his major league career in Roy Hobbs’ fashion with a memorable debut two seasons ago. But since then, he had been a bust, averaging just .258 with little power and mediocre defense. He hopes to finally have a good year to justify the hype as well as his big salary.
Hideki Matsui, LA Angels
The 2009 World Series MVP will swing his mighty bat for the Angels, who will try to win their fourth straight American West title. Nicknamed “Godzilla”, Matsui will mostly DH because of his bad knees, and is still so revered in his native Japan that the Angels’ communications department issues 30 passes for Japanese media that follow Matsui at home and away games.
The Godzilla, a notorious Minnesota Twins killer in his years with the Yankees, did it again to the Twinkies on opening night Monday in Los Angeles, when he lined an RBI single to put the Angels ahead to stay in the fourth inning and added a towering solo homer in the bottom of the 8th to put the game out of reach.
Shin Shoo Choo, Cleveland Indians
Choo arrived in the majors two years ago without the star power of Matsui or Fukudome, but since then has developed into an impact player. An outfielder from S. Korea. Choo hit .300, blasted 20 home runs and had 87 RBIs to top all Indian players last year. Twins fans will find him to be a tough Central Division adversary this season again.
Chien Ming Wang, Washington Nationals
Wang, a two-time 19-game winner (2006, 2007) for the Yankees, was dumped by the Yanks after injuries kept him out the last two seasons. He signed a one-year deal with the Nationals and hopes to regain the form that made him one of the best pitchers in the baseball. He is in the last stage of his rehab and will return to action in May.
Kurt Suzuki, Oakland A’s
He is no Joe Mauer, but Suzuki, a native of Hawaii, has quietly established himself as one of the top young catchers in the game. A solid signal caller behind the plate, he is coming off a fine offensive year with a .274 batting average, 15 homeruns and 88 RBIs.
Other Asian and Asian American players on MLB rosters include:
No need to say much more about this future hall of fame outfielder. No longer the young man that has set batting and fielding records, Ichiro’s intense approach to the game is the stuff of legend. Rumor has it that he sometimes makes an appearance at Kikugawa when he’s playing the Twins in Minnesota.
The Red Sox have three Japanese pitchers.
Hideki Okajima, star left-handed reliever from Japan.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, star starting pitcher from Japan.
Junichi Tazawa, right-handed reliever from Japan.
Fu Te Ni, left hander reliever from Taiwan in his second year.
New York Yankees
Chan Ho Park, veteran right-hander from South Korea.
Kazuo Matsui, veteran short stop, and utility infielder from Japan.
The Dodgers have enviable ties to Latin America and Asia and the club plays in Taiwan, China and Japan in the off-season.
Hong-Chih Kuo, ace left-handed reliever from Taiwan.
Hiroki Kuroda, right-handed reliever from Japan.
Chin-lung Hu, infielder from Taiwan.
New York Mets
Ryota Igarashi, first-year right-handed pitcher from Japan.
San Francisco Giants
Travis Ishikawa, infielder from Seattle, WA.
Shane Victorino, star outfielder from Hawaii. Victorino earned the nicknames “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” and “The Pineapple Express” with his island heritage and great speed.