PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks @LosDbacks) announced that they will host the Japanese Pacific League's Hokkaido Nippon-ham Fighters during Spring Training next year at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The Fighters will prepare for their upcoming season during a two-week period from Feb. 1-14.
"We have tremendous relationships throughout Japan and a longstanding history with the Fighters," said D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall. "We are very excited to host them at Salt River Fields, which we hope they will find to be the best Spring Training site in all of baseball."
"We have held Spring Training in Arizona for the last two years," said Nippon-ham Fighters Team President Kenso Takeda. "In the hopes of becoming Japan Champions again, we have made the decision to change our Spring Training site, so that we can rededicate ourselves in a new environment. In 2018, we will be using the state-of-the-art facility provided to us by the Arizona Diamondbacks. I would like to thank the Diamondbacks for their huge support. We will make it our goal for each player to improve their playing ability and to create stronger team chemistry."
The D-backs have had a strong presence in Japan for many years, including multiple goodwill trips during the past several seasons. Among the executives to make recent trips to Japan include Hall, Tony La Russa, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Director of Pacific Rim Operations Makoto "Mack" Hayashi. Most recently, a contingent of executives visited multiple cities in Japan including Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Sendai while also attending a Fighters game.
The group has twice hosted the MLB Road Show and clinic in the town of Ishinomaki, which was severely damaged by a tsunami in 2012.
Next spring marks the first time that the D-backs will host a Japanese League team for its Spring Training but the franchise hosted the Kia Tigers from Korea and Meiji University, a prestigious baseball university in Japan, in 2016.
The D-backs' history in Japan dates to before the franchise played its first game, when the General Manager, Joe Garagiola Jr., joined Manager Buck Showalter and Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations Jim Marshall on a goodwill trip in 1997 that included watching the games in which Ichiro Suzuki played. Garagiola Jr. made numerous trips to Japan during his tenure as GM and in 2002, the team formalized a working relationship with the Fighters, which included several additional visits by D-backs personnel to Japan and vice versa. Members of the Fighters' front office shadowed members of the D-backs' front office and the Fighters held a D-backs Day in which Garagiola threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In 2004, the club began hosting young players from Japan in Phoenix and sending young Valley residents for baseball trips to Japan, with one of those young players going on to play in the D-backs' farm system (Jake Williams).