03/04/2004 9:23 AM - On May 14th, the Kansas City T-Bones will entertain an all-star traveling team of former Japanese major leaguers. Heading up the welcome wagon for the visiting squad will be two of the newest additions to the T-Bones roster, RHP Jyotaro Ogura and C Hiroshi Fujimoto.
Fujimoto, a training partner and close friend of Seattle Mariner star Ichiro Suzuki, was actually recommended to the T-Bones by the former AL Most Valuable Player. Both played for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan and developed a friendship while training in their native land. Like Suzuki, Fujimoto is a right-handed thrower who bats from the left side of the plate.
2004 will be Fujimotos third season playing baseball in the States, as he had stints with the Chico Heat (2000) and the Zion Pioneerzz (2000-01) in the independent Western League. Fujimoto was initially signed by Chico after a 1999 season in the Japanese Industrial League in which he hit .411 with 11 home runs and 49 RBI in just 102 at-bats.
Righty Ogura was a superstar during his college years at Tokyo Gakugei University. The 58, 180-pound pitcher baffled many a hitter during his college days with an assortment of pitches including a curveball, slider, and split-finger. The 26-year-old Ogura was projected to be a high draft pick but elected, for personal reasons, to skip the draft and try his luck in the industrial leagues in Japan.
From 1999-2001, Ogura took the hill for Asahi Seimei in the Industrial League, and spent 2003 and 2004 with Hitachi Seisaku, another Industrial League club.
With the rise of Japanese baseball players in America, we feel very honored to have two top prospects from Japan, remarked T-Bones Manager Al Gallagher. As well, we hope they can contribute to the ballclub and strengthen us up the middle.