A 2002 feature on Tsuyoshi Shinjo

This story was filed for The Rafu Shimpo, Los Angeles’ English-Japanese newspaper.

As it appeared in the California newspaper.

By ED M. ODEVEN
Rafu contributor

PHOENIX (May 24, 2002) — While center fielder
Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s steady defense has been his No. 1
contribution to the San Francisco Giants so far this
season, his productivity at the plate is starting to
get noticed more and more.

After starting the season in a 1-for-20 slump while
batting in the leadoff position, Shinjo has turned
things around.

Now customarily batting seventh or eighth in the
Giants lineup, Shinjo has raised his average from .215
to .245 during a current seven-game hitting streak.
Shinjo has 10 hits in his last 26 at-bats, and is
starting to do what he says he wants to do.

“It’s time for me to get red-hot (offensively),” he
said through interpreter Katsunori Kojima before
Wednesday’s game at Bank One Ballpark.

Shinjo wasted no time backing up his words Wednesday,
with a 3-for-5 effort and a sacrifice fly.

Giants manager Dusty Baker said the 30-year-old Shinjo
is doing a solid job swinging the stick.

“Shinjo is starting to hit the ball better,” Baker
said. “I was confident he’d come around offensively.
He’s a valuable player for us defensively, and he’s
been coming up with some timely hits, too.”

One of those hits Baker was referring to was Shinjo’s
grand slam against the Florida Marlins last Friday off
reliever Braden Looper. The eighth inning homer was
the first grand slam by a Japanese-born player in
major league history.

As much as Shinjo admires Barry Bond’s prowess at the
plate, don’t expect him to emulate the slugger’s
stance or constant swing-for-the-fences mentality.

“On defense, I have a lot of fun with Barry, playing
and chasing the ball in the outfield. But on offense,
there’s a difference of mechanics for right-handed
hitters and left-handed hitters,” Shinjo said. “So
even though he’s a great hitter and I’m trying to pick
up some of the good things from Barry, sometimes it’s
hard because I’m a right-handed hitter and Barry’s a
left-handed hitter.”

A defensive gem

A perfect illustration of Shinjo’s value to the Giants
came in a game at Montreal on May 11. With the Giants
leading 3-2 in the eighth inning, the Expos’ Fernando
Tatis ripped a one-out double off the wall in
right-center. Shinjo picked up the ball and fired a
one-hopper to catcher Benito Santiago. Shinjo’s
perfect strike caught Troy O’Leary and preserved the
Giants’ lead, and they wound up winning the ballgame.

“My mouth was just open,” right fielder Marvin Benard
told reporters after the game. “You expect a guy to
throw the ball, but to the cutoff man. You don’t
expect him to just launch it all the way like that, so
you’ve just got to sit there and say, ‘Where’d it
go?”‘

Added Santiago, “”That’s one of the best plays of the
year so far.”

Shinjo made plenty of similar, spectacular plays last
season with the New York Mets, as he previously did
during his 10 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers.

Comfortable atmosphere

In a pre-game chat with Giants announcer Jon Miller on
Wednesday, the subject of how Shinjo has fit in with
his new team this season came up.

“He’s really fit in on this team,” Miller said. “He’s
a real likable guy who gets along well with his
teammates.”

Miller chuckled and then recalled a story about
Opening Day.

As the public address announcer introducing the
players before the game, Miller recalled how he
enthusiastically asked fans to welcome the new Giant
to Pac Bell Park.

Then, “40,000 fans said ‘konnichi wa,’ ” said Miller, of the
fans’ efforts to make Shinjo feel welcome.

That set the tone for what has followed.

“We have great fans and the weather is nice, and all
the things make it easier for me,” Shinjo remarked.

Shinjo added that his main wish is to be “playing
without being injured, staying in good condition. Not
only me, but everybody is having the same goals that we
share.”

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