We Know Bryan LaHair, But Who Are The Fukuoka Hawks?

I was curious to learn more about theFukuoka SoftBank Hawks after the news of Bryan LaHair signing with the team for2-years, $4.5 million. The Cubs received a payment of $950k in the deal.

-The Hawks are one of 12 teams in the Japanese League playing in the Pacific League Division. They have a strong fan base and regularly place near the top of the league in attendance according toJapanBaseball.com.

-The Hawks have a reputation as a power-hitting franchise and have a lengthy history with some of the league’s greatest sluggers including Katsuya Nomura (657 HR) and Hiromitsu Kadota (567 HR). Japan’s all-time home run king, Sadaharu Oh (868 HR), managed the team from 1995-2008.

Yahoo Japan Dome

– During what we’re familiar with as the seventh inning stretch, Hawks fans sing the team fight song and then release thousands of yellow balloons (team color). After a Hawks victory there’s a fireworks display.

-LaHair’s new home digs will be the Yahoo! Japan Dome. It opened in 1993 and was modeled after Toronto’s SkyDome. It offers the only retractable roof in the league, but seating arrangements are notorious for poor sightlines and its high walls surrounding the field keep fans relatively far away from the action (Japan Dome on left, Toronto SkyDome on right).

Yahoo Japan Dome

– I wasn’t as successful finding player’s contract information with the Hawks. However, based on last season’s Hawks’ roster LaHair will be joining former major league pitchers Hideki Okajima, Brian Falkenborg and outfielder Willy Mo Pena.

– Former recognizable MLB names to have played for the Hawks include Brad Penny (released last May), Kameron Loe, CJ Nitkowski, Brian Buchanan, Tony Bautista, Jolbert Cabrera, Adam Hyzdu, Kenji Johjima and former Cub Justin Germano.

Rich Gossage, Bobby Thigpen, Kevin Mitchell and Tadahito Iguchi also played for the franchise when they were known as the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (1988-2005).

– If all goes well for LaHair he could be another power-hitting star for the Hawks. He averaged 30 HR per-year in his last three minor league seasons before joining Chicago full-time in 2012. He hit 16 HR with the Cubs last year (second most on the team behind Soriano’s 32 HR).

– And if things go really well for LaHair, his contract reportedly contains an opt-out clause following the 2013 season that presumably allows him to explore interest from MLB teams wanting to acquiring him.

– It’s a shame LaHair’s career in Chicago didn’t pan out. By all accounts he appears a genuinely nice guy and his story of perseverance to become a 29 year old rookie All Star will always be remembered fondly. Here’s wishing LaHair all the best in Japan.

– “I’m just taking the all the positives out of this year, I’m not taking any negatives. I had a chance to play early in the year, and I played off the bench in the second half, and I thought I did well.” –Bryan LaHair

Fukuoka, Japan


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