Alex Dickerson Looks to Bring Magic to Dragons’ Lineup in Nippon Pro Baseball

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Alex Dickerson of the Chunichi Dragons slugs a solo home run against the Carp in preseason action in Hiroshima on March 10.

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama — Chunichi has been more puff than magic Dragons in recent years.

The Central League cellar dwellers the past two seasons were last year tied for fourth in team ERA with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters among Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 teams at 3.08, but their 390 runs were easily the fewest in Japan.

The Dragons, who were fifth in 2021 and really haven’t contended for a top-three spot since 2020, tried to add some pop this season.

One of the answers, besides free-agent slugger Sho Nakata from the Yomiuri Giants, was to acquire Alex Dickerson, a 33-year-old outfielder who brings 40 homers and 49 doubles from six major league seasons to the club.

Dickerson doesn’t figure to give the Dragons a huge longball threat, especially with pitcher-friendly Vantelin Dome Nagoya as their home ballpark, but he can certainly give them a powerful presence in the middle of the lineup.

“I describe myself as kind of a contact hitter with home run power. I think I lean more on doubles than I do homers,” the lefty-hitting Dickerson told The Japan News before a recent preseason game against the Saitama Seibu Lions at Belluna Dome.

Dickerson said the Dragons have the kind of players who can turn around their scoring woes this year.

“I see a lot of guys with a lot of potential to put together good at-bats. We play in a place that’s not easy because the home run’s not in play unless you really lay into it. That automatically makes it a little more difficult, but we’ve got a lot of guys that can grind out at-bats and get the hits.

“So it’s just a matter of timely hitting, and developing a team approach will be the key to scoring runs, because we’ve got the players, that’s for sure. I have no doubt about that, there’s a lot of talent here.”

Dickerson brings a bit of a resume against top-flight Japanese pitching, having notched three hits off two-time American League MVP Shohei Ohtani in a 9-3 victory for the San Francisco Giants in 13 innings over the Los Angeles Angels on June 23, 2021.

“Yeah, it’s funny, my swing was actually kind of messed up all that entire year, but that particular game, I was pretty locked in,” Dickerson said with prideful smile.

“I got most of his best pitches and I just put a good swing on them three times and I got three hard-hit knocks. I don’t know, I saw him pretty well,” he said, likening the experience to being alongside a rockstar.

“It’s its own event any time he’s on the field. He’s a special player and any time you get to play him, there’s a massive crowd and it’s an exciting time.”

The Dragons are hoping Dickerson and the new additions to the lineup can add some excitement and stoke things for a team that has been all smoke and no fire in recent years.