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Friday, June 24, 2011

NPB NOTEBOOK

PL struggled at gate in interleague


Staff writer

The Pacific League, led by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, got the best of the Central League on the field, but couldn't keep pace in the stands.

News photo
Familiar with the Central League: Softbank's Seiichi Uchikawa, who joined the Hawks as a free agent from the Yokohama BayStars in offseason, was named the MVP of interleague play this season. KYODO PHOTO

The PL saw a 6.7 percent decline in average attendance during interleague play this season compared with last year's figures.

The interleague champion Hawks were the only PL team to see an increase, moving up 0.8 percent. The Chiba Lotte Marines turned in the biggest dropoff, drawing 19.6 percent fewer fans per home game. The Orix Buffaloes also saw a double-digit decline (12.3 percent) despite an impressive 15-7-2 record against CL teams this season.

The Hawks had the highest average interleague attendance among PL clubs, drawing 32,705 fans per game. Softbank also leads the league in total attendance, averaging 29,898 fans (an increase of 4.9 percent from 2010) through its first 29 home games of the season.

CL teams combined to record a 2.8 percent increase in attendance with the Chunichi Dragons and their whopping 14 percent rise leading the way. The only teams to see attendance decline were the Yomiuri Giants (4.3 percent) and the Yokohama BayStars (1.1 percent).

The Hanshin Tigers led all teams with a average attendance of 43,423. The Tigers are also the CL — and NPB for that matter — leaders in attendance, averaging crowds of 43,068 through 27 home games.

In total, each league hosted 72 interleague games, with CL teams drawing an average of 28,407 fans (compared to 27,643 in 2010) per game. Contests in Pa League parks drew an average of 24,364 (versus 26,126 in 2010).

Interleague play concluded on June 19. The PL was 78-57-9, finishing above .500 for the sixth time since the format began in 2005. Pa League teams have won every interleague title.

Get it together: When a star isn't producing, sometimes drastic measures have to be taken. In a tight pennant race, everyone has to pull his weight and those who can't often need some time off to get themselves right.

To that end, the Chunichi Dragons have sent Doala, their giant blue koala bear mascot (and also — believe or not — author of the book "Doala's Secrets") to the farm team citing a string of bad performances.

Doala usually does a corkscrew flip during the seventh inning of home games. He hasn't been sticking the landing too much as of late, prompting his demotion.

Roughing it: Celebrated Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters rookie Yuki Saito has been with the club's farm team since suffering a left abdominal strain in early May. Saito is on the road to recovery and has made three starts with the ni-gun team since being taken off the active roster.

He's slowly rounding back into form and turned in his best performance with the second team on Tuesday. The Handkerchief Prince threw seven innings against the Yomiuri Giants' ni-gun squad, allowing three runs — two earned — and seven hits in an 100-pitch outing.

Going, going gone?: Hiroshima Carp slugger Kenta Kurihara reached the requirements for domestic free agency this week.

Should Kurihara harbor serious MLB aspirations, he'll likely opt to remain with the team while he bides his time until international free agency. That is the same route former Carp pitcher Hiroki Kuroda took to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Even if Kurihara plans to stay in Japan, Carp fans may have reason to worry. The last two star sluggers to hit the open market after honing their skills in Hiroshima, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Takahiro Arai, bolted for a bigger payday and a better chance at winning a pennant upon reaching free agency.

Kanemoto left Hiroshima to join the Hanshin Tigers after the 2002 season and helped the Tigers win Central League pennants in 2003 and 2005. Arai filled the void until his own departure after the 2007 season, when he joined Kanemoto at Koshien Stadium.



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