Japan Pro Baseball Expands Minor League with Addition of 2 Teams

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seibu Lions’ owner Takashi Goto, right, speaks at a press conference after the meeting of the 12 pro baseball teams in Tokyo on Friday.

Japan pro baseball has decided to expand its minor league beyond its 12 current teams, admitting a newly formed team in Shizuoka City and an existing independent team from Niigata City.

Shizuoka’s Hayate 223 and the Niigata Albirex Baseball Club will begin playing in the second-tier farm league starting next season, the 12 team owners of Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB) decided at a meeting in Tokyo on Friday.

Both teams will play home games in their local stadiums against the farm teams of the parent clubs in the Central and Pacific leagues.

The NPB’s plan to expand its minor leagues is aimed at spreading its scope to prefectures beyond those hosting its 12 teams, and to promote the development of the game overall.

Hayate will be assigned to the Western League, while Niigata will play in the Eastern League, and there will be an increase in inter-league games.

NPB had put out a call seeking prospective members and, in addition to the two teams selected, the independent Tochigi Golden Braves also met the application deadline of July. The next month the NPB launched a series of hearings and local inspections and found that Hayate and Niigata fulfilled its seven requirements, including having secured a home stadium and links with the local government.

“We are greatly looking forward to the expansion of baseball’s reach and through that, the helping in the development of the region,” Saitama Seibu Lions’ owner Takashi Goto, who chaired the owners’ meeting, said at a press conference.