Artistic Swallows (and the new Shiroishi)

Now, if you’re reading this expecting some kind of new high-brow niche in adult entertainment from Japan, please accept my apologies and look elsewhere. This here be about baseball.

Just as it did last year, the new Swallows Official Goods Catalogue popped through my letterbox this last week, goading me to waste yet more money on stuff I don’t need.

While the available tat hasn’t really changed all that much from last year’s selection (the “highlights” of which can be found here), what has changed is the wondrous cover illustration. Last year’s you’ll remember, featured the “stars” of the Swallows (plus Shiroishi and Katoh) in a series of lovingly illustrated poses.

But as you can see from the picture above, this year’s has gone all super-deformed. No-doubt the part-time office intern in the yogurt research department with a flair for art has left for pastures new, leaving the new illustration to the Junior High School student currently doing their work experience with Yakult.

Well, let’s just be grateful that said artist resisted the temptation to feature Tsubamegun favourite Shiroishi in the new rogue’s gallery, as he has now left his playing days behind to coach the first team on how to be not very good.

So who do we have this year then? Well, clockwise from top left we have baby-faced starter Yoshinori, veteran infielder Shinya Miyamoto, the always razor-sharp manager Shigeru Takada (whose face is no doubt beaming that he still manages to draw a healthy paycheck for being a clueless muppet), then we have franchise man and newly crowned “Mr.Swallows” Norichika Aoki, and what looks like starter Masanori Ishikawa.

We’ll skip the next guy for a moment, next to whom stands king of steals Kazuki Fukuchi with ace Shohei Tateyama (finally getting some recognition from the Swallows “marketing department”)  finishing up the crew in the bottom left.

But who’s that front row and dead centre? I honestly didn’t have much if an idea initially after simply looking at the picture. I racked my brains trying to think of any of the top-tier guys it could be. Closer Lim? No…….he’s foreign, they wouldn’t put him on there. Muranaka? Mmm, doesn’t look much like him plus he’s holding a bat. Hiroyasu “Beavis” Tanaka? Again, doesn’t look much like him, not to mention that Takada doesn’t like the man. Aikawa? Don’t think so.

And you know what, I had no idea. But then I thought about who made the cut last year, namely Mr.Shiroishi, and then it dawned on me who it must be. As I hypothesised in the following excerpt from “show me the money”, we may well have a new Shiroishi on our hands, and his name is………..

Keizo Kawashima – The perfectly unspectacular KK will see his salary rise by 10M yen this season, up to 35M for the year.

Now I may be being harsh here (well ok, not maybe), but given that the main way he seems to contribute to the organisation is being popular with the ladyfolk (he’s small and cute you see) and thus no doubt contributing handsomely to merchandise takings, the reason that he continues to start so many games and has gotten such a pay jump must be due to one or all of the following:

  1. He came from the Fighters, as did our “manager”, a manager who likes to look after his own.
  2. He and the “manager” have a “special” relationship (maybe Takada likes ’em cute……?).
  3. (As suggested by  Tsubamegun reader Rob) Takada likes his walk-on music (a cover of Toto’s Aftica) so much he keeps putting him in the lineup so he has something to occupy his mind during games, as it sure as hell is not occupied by baseball.

Of course I’m (kind of) jesting, but i’m not sure why Keizo saw a 40% pay rise while others didn’t. He hit the same .255 in 2009 that he did in 2008 (his first year with the birds), though he did increase his homer tally (by 8 ) to 12 last season.

Whisper it: could we have ourselves another Shiroishi on our hands…….?

So, the similarities with our recently retired darling continue, and I’m gonna call it – Keizo Kawashima is the new Noriyuki Shiroishi.

That said, I’m still not 100% sure that’s who it is, given the exceptional quality of the artwork. What do you think?

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Hasty. Keizo might not be regular material, but Shiroishi set the bar both high and low: he managed to have a two-digit batting average and suck so hard that even a club that obviously wanted him to be a start couldn't justify playing him at all whilst also drawing one of the highest salaries on the team and not seeing it fall until the fact that he was in a uniform at all had gone well beyond a joke.
    Keizo's centrality to marketing makes absolutely no sense based on what's happened on the field (then again we can be fairly sure that no one higher than coach in the organization pays any attention at all), it is as premature to call him Shiroishi as it is to call Takada the best manager the team's ever had (as one of the “Ondo” writers did last year.)

    • You mean to tell me Takada is not the best manager the team has ever had?!?

      I must get my propaganda sensors looked at.

  • I would like to point out that Shiroishi came from the Fighters as well.

    However, people on the Fighters still miss Keizo. We could actually really use him these days — why on earth didn't we trade you guys Yuji Iiyama instead?

    On a semi-related note, I continue to be impressed with the Yakult fan club given the media yearbook thing they sent for free. I think most teams are selling similar books for around 1000 yen.

    • For what it's worth, I have a (shrinking) soft spot for Keizo as he provided the only highlight of my trip to Kure two years ago, when Oshimoto had one of his melt-downs, the Swallows blew an eight-run lead against a weak Hiroshima, much of the crowd around me spent most of the game staring, pointing, and talking about me (what a difference a 45 min. train ride from the big town, Hiroshima, makes), and our side just melted down. Keizo got nailed in a pickle between 2nd and 3rd when things were down to pretty much the last hope near the end of the game and, while everyone knew how it would end, he just would NOT give up the out – he bobbed, weaved, juked, jumped, dove, and took his efforts to avoid that tag to an almost comical extreme – it looked almost as much like football as baseball for a moment.

      Whatever his shortcomings, whatever favorable treatment he may be receiving from our boob of a manager, Keizo seems to work hard – I have to give him that, at least.