The 2016 Summer Koshien is upon us with a fresh tournament ahead. While Spring Koshien happens in March, this is the ultimate tournament where every school qualifies and earns their way to the dance.
If this sounds familiar, it's the Japanese equivalent of March Madness which happens to be in August and it's obviously a high school instead of University level of the sport. A total of 49 schools are representing 47 prefectures with each having at least one.
Tournament rules are simple: A win and you live to fight another day, while a loss means you're sent packing. Matchups are determined by draw, no seeding involved, meaning two great schools could see each other early. When Shohei Otani was in high school, he would lose to Osaka Toin and Shintaro Fujinami in the second round.
As always, I've manually created a Lions roster data sheet which includes their estimated salary, origin and even where they were prior to the Lions. When clicking on a player's profile, the NPB roster site in Japanese will list where he went to high school and anything after that including the industrial league team, independent league team or University he played for.
Last year, I only included players who played at least one game for the Lions' ichi-gun in 2015 up to that point (as I didn't have the full data yet). This time, the entire 70-man roster has been completed with past origins marked up. Here are the schools in this year's Summer Koshien with a Lions connection.
Hokkai (Southern Hokkaido): OF Daisuke Togawa, P Seiji Kawagoe
Togawa was the Lions ikusei draft pick in 2014 and earned a roster promotion after the 2015 season. Kawagoe was drafted by the Lions last fall in the second round as a pitcher. However, he can also play as an outfielder as a fall back option. Kawagoe played at the elevator University of the same name for four years after high school.
Both Kawagoe and Togawa have yet to play for the Lions ichi-gun team.
Note: Hokkaido is one of two prefectures with two schools. In this case, Hokkai represents Southern Hokkaido and is located in Sapporo.
Joso Gakuen (Ibaraki): OF Yutaro Osaki
Osaki has played for the Lions since 2007 and was drafted in 2006. He has mostly been a reserve outfielder and sees playing time when the coaching staff likes a matchup that works in his favor. He played more than 100 games only once in 2012.
Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama): OF Aito Otaki
Otaki was the team's fourth round draft pick in 2015. Last year, he was part of Hanasaki Tokuharu's team that played in the Koshien tournament, reaching the Elite 8 equivalent. He most likely knows majority of the current roster playing this year.
Hopefully as you've read our blog, you should know Saitama prefecture is obviously home to the Seibu Lions.
Jinsei Gakuen (Kagawa): IF Shogo Kimura
Kimura was a recent addition to the Lions after passing his tryout in training camp last spring. Used as a reserve infielder, Kimura unfortunately tore his ACL in June and is out for the season. He was originally an 11th round draft pick of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars in 2002.
Naruto (Tokushima): C Shota Nakata
Nakata has mostly been a farm catcher for the Lions and has been with the team since 2007.
Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki): P Yuta Nakazaki
Nakazaki was the Lions first-round draft pick in 2008 out of high school. Nichinan Gakuen also qualified for Spring Koshien earlier this year. This year, Nakazaki saw playing time with the ichi-gun for the first time since 2013 out of the bullpen.
Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma): P Kona Takahashi
In Koshien history, Kona Takahashi is probably the most famous of the bunch. In 2013, he led his school to their first ever appearance at Summer Koshien and would win the whole thing with a Cinderella type of run. Takahashi would use this performance to boost his stock and eventually be selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2014 draft.
This season on June 24, the Lions played a game in the city of Maebashi where it was marketed around Takahashi. He would start the game and eventually lose it to the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Here is tape of Takahashi from one of the games from Maebashi's 2013 Koshien run against Yokohama High School
Just Came up Short:
Aikodai Meidan (Aichi) lost their finals and that is the school Ken Togame attended. It is more famous for being the high school of Ichiro Suzuki
Omura Kogyo (Nagasaki) lost at the final stage. Daichi Mizuguchi attended this school before playing in the industrial leagues and being drafted as an Ikusei.
Here is the full list of the 49 schools represented in this year's Koshien tournament, courtesy of Edwin Dizon (@Eigokokoyakyu). You can see who is a "powerhouse" vs who hasn't made the tournament in more than a decade in comparison.
Other fun tidbits include Rieseisha Tetsuto Yamada's school making the tournament. Yokohama high school is where Yoshitomo Tsutsugo attended before being drafted by the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. By qualifying, Chiben Gakuen (Nara) is trying to make history as the 7th school to win both Spring Koshien (senbatsu) and Summer Koshien (Natsu no Koshien).
There should be plenty of professional talent to scout and by the end, someone can become a legend. Players who succeed in Koshien cement their legacy as baseball players, regardless of how they do in the pros. Enjoy!
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