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Friday, July 19, 2002

Fighters, Diamondbacks form partnership

Staff writer

The Nippon Ham Fighters, who are scheduled to move to Sapporo for the 2004 season, will be getting a little help setting up shop up north the team announced Thursday in Tokyo.

The perennial Pacific League second division finishers have formed a working partnership with Major League Baseball's World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks that will include exchanges on coaching, ticketing, marketing and stadium operations.

The agreement was described as being "long term" by both teams, with the actual length of the pact unspecified.

The Fighters, who last won the PL pennant in 1981, sought out the Diamondbacks after their 27-year working agreement with the New York Yankees, who lost to Arizona in the World Series last fall, ended on June 30.

Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. and the team's Pacific Rim coordinator Jim Marshall, a former player and coach in Japan, flew in for a news conference announcing the tie up.

"We have long believed there is much we can learn from Japanese baseball," Garagiola said after signing the partnership contract with Fighters president Takeshi Kojima. "What better way to grow the game internationally, than with agreements like this."

Nippon Ham's arrangement with the Diamondbacks is one of five between MLB teams and Japanese clubs. Currently, the Hanshin Tigers (Detroit Tigers), Orix BlueWave (Seattle Mariners), Kintetsu Buffaloes (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Yakult Swallows (Cleveland Indians) also have similar partnerships in place.

No specifics were provided on possible player exchanges between the Fighters and Diamondbacks, but Kojima did say that Nippon Ham's "young players and coaches may go to Arizona next year for instruction during preseason training."

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