So Taguchi Has Lost His Wa

But the Phillies' slumping outfielder remains determined to find it.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Jul. 9, 2008

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Photographs by G.W. Miller

It's three hours before a game in early June and our heroes stand on the field, stretching, laughing, gazing at the glorious blue sky as though it's the first they've ever seen.

For the moment, they seem to appreciate this great fortune that allows them to grow rich beyond expectation by throwing hard, swinging accurately, running fast and tossing their bodies in front of objects moving at lightning-quick speeds.

Jimmy Rollins' cheeks bulge as he converses with Ryan Howard, the Bunyanlike figure holding a piece of boned lumber in his left hand. The two stand near the batting cage almost posing, as though someone's chiseling their likenesses in marble.

The Reds' Ken Griffey Jr., a future Hall of Famer currently sitting on 599 career home runs, approaches the league's two Most Valuable Players. They shake hands, tell jokes and double over in laughter. Mere mortals aren't permitted near the batting cage so it's impossible to hear what they're saying. No doubt they're discussing the state of their magical powers, their innate abilities to perform the inhuman tasks they execute every day.

Chase Utley, the leading All-Star game vote-getter who's hit a home run in each of the last five games, picks up his bat and practices his quick, majestic swing.

Players remain scattered along the first-base line. Gregg Dobbs lies on his back, his legs facing home plate while his head faces the outfield bleachers. Chris Coste, stonefaced, struggles his way through push-ups. Geoff Jenkins extends his arms in front of him as though he's trying to fly.

Farthest from the batting cage and slightly removed from the others stands So Taguchi. The boyish-looking Japanese utility outfielder leans on his left leg, stretching the right. His eyes are open wide but he seems not to be looking at anything.

He's alone, physically and mentally.

Taguchi's the 25th man on a 25-man team, and he's suffering through the most difficult season of his 17-year professional career. He's 7,000 miles from home, the only Japanese-speaking player on a team in a city without a large or active Japanese population. He barely gets to play.

Field of dreams: The Phillies' sole Japanese player had high hopes for the American major leagues.

On top of all that, he could lose his job any day now.

Yet there probably isn't anyone more excited to be on the field right now than Taguchi.

"This is the major leagues," he says with a huge smile after batting practice. "It's the best baseball in the world."


Right about now, the city's overheated sports bloggers, radio windbags and armchair general managers are smacking their heads.

"Taguchi? That's who you're profiling?"

Taguchi should be gone, they say, replaced by a young minor league stud like Greg Golson or T.J. Bohn. Taguchi is a defensive replacement who can't catch, a pinch hitter who's hitless in 16 attempts.

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COMMENTS

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1. Charles Zimbabwe said... on Jul 9, 2008 at 09:36AM

“nice piece. seems like a very nice, respectful man. quite admirable. will def root harder for toguchi to do well now. hopefully it's just a confidence issue.”

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2. Mischa said... on Jul 9, 2008 at 11:36AM

“Again, So seems like a very nice, respectful team player all of which partly charaterizes a good big league player. Now Taguchi was brough to the Phillies to be a pinch hitting specialist, a roll that he has been playing a top the NL. So is batting at the Mendoza line, which is a 79 point drop from his career BA. His OBP and SLG also declined dramatically his season as well when compared to his career averages. Taguchi has also made some defenesive mistakes. Now Taguchi is hitting at .167 since the Phillies 20-2 victroy over the Cards on June 13th which is the last time Taguchi has reached base safely on a hit. This may all be a symptom of the fact that he does not bat as much as he has in his impressive pro career. Also Since that June evening in St. Louis, noone on the team has been hitting they way they have in the past. But coming of arguably the best season So has had in the Majors, it is reasonable for the Manuel, the organizations and the fans to expect more from him. The fact that he has gotten more abats and starts else where can serve to explain his lack of production but does not excuse it. With the Phillies again in a heated race for the post-season and with Jayson Werth continuing to play the best baseball of his career, Taguchi will, for better or worst, continue to watch his role on the team dimenish. Personally I was excited when Taguchi was signed last off-season, but I won't be that sad to see him leave this organization. With the Phillies narrowly in First place there is no room for a nice guy, who finishes last. Interesting Article though.”

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3. Kuroshio said... on Jul 9, 2008 at 12:00PM

“As a martial artist who has studied Japanese culture and martial arts both in the US and Japan, I appreciate so much the effort (doryoku) that So Taguchi puts out every day. As fans, we never get a chance to see it because he never gets a chance to play, and his hard work to stay in shape physically and mentally goes unnoticed. I am also very impressed with the way he has worked to become competent in English. It speaks well of this man that he even cares to do this. I know it must be killing Taguchi-san to not be doing well here. Hopefully he will get a chance to do what he is capable of doing. Gambatte, Taguchi-san. Kuroshio”

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4. Akaoni said... on Jul 9, 2008 at 09:19PM

“Big difference between Tony LaRusa and Charlie Manuel. Keep utility players flesh or rusty. Remember when Dobbs had an error a couple nights ago? It is same type of thing when Taguchi had an error for LAA game. They will keep on losing if their main players not hitting. Because you can't expect that utility players play good because of the way Phillies' manager use them. Do you think it is not true? See how LaRusa use his men in this three days. He uses them very well in both winning and losing games as usual.”

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5. Holly said... on Jul 28, 2008 at 10:31PM

“Great article. So Taguchi seems like a really nice and admirable guy. I root for him every time he's at-bat. All the best, So!”

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6. Christopher said... on Sep 23, 2008 at 06:21PM

“This was a solid, interesting piece. Not a lot of profiles on the 25th man on a 25-man team. Thanks.”

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7. CardinalFan said... on Sep 28, 2008 at 11:15PM

“I love this article - I've been Taguchi's fan for a long time now - and it's really hard for me to go on the website checking to see if he gets a chance to bat..and if he gets a hit or not...I was so sad to see him leave the Cardinals...and a big change @ the Phillies... I don't think Phillies needs him - I would love to see him to go to a team that needs him next sason. Go Taguchi - I will be supporting you as always :) Thanks for the great article again!”

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8. Wa said... on Sep 29, 2008 at 12:15AM

“I love this article - I've been Taguchi's fan for a long time now - and it's really hard for me to go on the website checking to see if he gets a chance to bat..and if he gets a hit or not...I was so sad to see him leave the Cardinals...and a big change @ the Phillies... I don't think Phillies needs him - I would love to see him to go to a team that needs him next sason. Go Taguchi - I will be supporting you as always :) Thanks for the great article again!”

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9. CardinalFan said... on Oct 30, 2008 at 01:46PM

“I just want him to come back to St. Louis...”

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10. Machida said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 05:18AM

“I was a resident of the States for 37 years. I have been a fan of Major league Baseball. I watched So Taguchi play for St.Louis Cardinals over the T.V. In 2007 in Fall my friends and I drove 3 and half hour from Indiana to watch the game. So Taguchi was a pinch runner that evening. I had a prayer this evening for him. I respect him for his baseball spirit.”

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