For the ninth straight season, Tomo Ohka is hosting four disadvantaged youngsters from Japan and encouraging them to persevere through adversity in pursuit of their life goals.
08/21/2009 12:15 PM ET
Ohka helps inspire Japanese kids
Indians pitcher shows youngsters the Majors on Dream Tour
Ohka, who began the "Dream Tour" in 2001 when he pitched for the Montreal Expos, caught up with this year's group on Thursday prior to the Indians' game against the Angels. They will be in Cleveland through Monday, meeting with Ohka, interacting with local community members and visiting tourist attractions on the trip sponsored by Ohka's "Field of Dreams" charity.
Ohka, who was raised in a single-parent home, conceived the program because he wanted to demonstrate to youngsters with similar backgrounds that it's possible to overcome their disadvantages. Most of the participants come from orphanages throughout Japan.
The participants are selected by the board of directors based on an essay and interview process in which they're asked to articulate their dreams and "demonstrate the willpower and desire to overcome adversity in order to fulfill their goals."
Ninety-one young people have taken part in the program since 2001.
Lopez brings hot bat into lineup: Felipe Lopez has played every day at second base since the Brewers acquired him from the Diamondbacks.
"I signed up to play," Lopez told MLB.com, "not to take days off."
Lopez is hitting .333 (37-for-111) as a Brewer and ranks tied for fifth overall in the National League in hits with 141.
Barmes joins sluggers at second: Clint Barmes became the sixth MLB second baseman to reach 20 homers this season. He's also second on the Rockies in long balls behind Troy Tulowitzki
"I can't really explain it. I know I am staying behind the ball a lot better, but it's not like I am up there trying to hit 'em out." Barmes told the Denver Post.
Barmes is currently on pace to hit 27 home runs and drive in 86 runs.
Wieters learned from Zaun: Veteran Gregg Zaun, traded to the Rays on Aug. 7, was happy to clear the way for top catching prospect Matt Wieters to take his place with the Oriols.
"He's a great kid, he really is," Zaun told MLB.com. "And that was one of the things that made life easy for me."
Wieters, meanwhile, has nothing but respect for Zaun.
"He was a great influence on me," he said. "To hear from him was huge. He's definitely a good influence and a good model that I got to learn from."
Lee takes dominance to new team, new level: Cliff Lee tossed his second complete game with the Phillies and improved to 4-0 after an 8-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He gave up just two hits, walked nobody and struck out 11.
"He's a for-real ace," right fielder Jayson Werth told the Philadelphia Daily News. "He's that type of guy, a shutdown guy. You can go out and control a game. Look at what he's done since he's been here -- that's pretty remarkable -- but that's the kind of stuff he brings to the table."
Sabathia adapts to life in New York: Northern California native CC Sabathia feels right at home in pinstripes.
"There's not the kind of pressure you think," Sabathia told the San Francisco Chronicle. "People think we're so corporate, but it's not like that here. This is probably the best clubhouse I've ever been in."
While Sabathia pitches on the East Coast, his loyalties remain to the teams he rooted for as a kid, especially the Oakland Raiders.
"They're going to win the Super Bowl this year," Sabathia said.
Fisher settling in as a reliever: Reds reliever Carlos Fisher is beginning to get comfortable with being a Major Leaguer.
"It's exciting," Fisher told MLB.com. "The first month was like walking on eggshells. But after the first month, I really got a chance to relax."
Smoltz finds fit in St. Louis: John Smoltz believes he's found the right fit with the Cardinals.
"If I had to come to a team and be perfect the very first or second time, then it wasn't going to be a good fit," Smoltz told MLB.com. "If the luxury was there to show some patience and get me some innings, I'm sure the benefits were going to pay, the upside was going to be worth it. If I went to a team right at the edge, having to win every single game or pitch relief, then I'm sure I was going to be in a tough spot. Not that I couldn't handle it, but the team was going to be in a tough spot."
Zambrano effective in rehab start: After missing three weeks with back spasms, Carlos Zambrano tossed five shutout innings at Class A Peoria on Thursday night and afterward said he was ready to go.
"It's hard [to watch on the DL] because I want to help my team," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune. "I want to be in L.A., I want to be pitching now for my team, especially against a good team like L.A.
"Every time I go to DL, I don't want to go to DL. I hate to be on the DL, but sometimes you have to protect your career. And the Cubs are trying to protect my career and do the best for me."
Coste, Quintero to see more action behind plate: With the trade of Ivan Rodriguez to the Rangers, catchers Humberto Quintero and Chris Coste will have increased playing time for the Astros.
"I have much more fun as a catcher, and it's my best position by far," Coste told MLB.com. "I usually hit much better when I'm catching, and I have a huge passion for catching. I'm excited to have the chance to get back to it."
Quintero said he studied the way Rodriguez handled the Houston pitchers and hopes to implement what he picked up.
"I learned a couple of things by watching the way [Pudge] called the games," Quintero said. "I've been waiting for the opportunity, and now it looks like they are going to give it, and I'll try to do my best for the team."
Ruiz asks Ortiz for some tips: When David Ortiz was walking in from left field at the Rogers Centre during batting practice on Wednesday, the Blue Jays' Randy Ruiz took the chance to talk to the left-handed slugger.
"That's one of the best DHs in this game right now," Ruiz told MLB.com. "So I'm like, 'Can I talk to him?' I pulled him to the side and said, 'Hey, man, I need you to tell me some ins and outs about DHing.' We talked down the left-field line, and he gave me some pointers."
Pujols does damage on basepath, too: It doesn't take a home run to get Albert Pujols around the bases.
In the top of the ninth against the Dodgers, Pujols led off with his third walk of the game before stealing second base on a 3-0 pitch to Matt Holliday. When the throw went into center field, Pujols took third and proceeded to score on Holliday's sacrifice fly, securing a 3-2 win for the Cardinals.
It was Pujols' 12th stolen base in 15 attempts this season.
"You don't have to be a hero every time at the plate," Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You can win a game with a diving catch or running the bases the right way."
Valley fever keeps Jackson out of action: Still feeling the effects of valley fever, Conor Jackson had to cut his rehab assignment short. Jackson played in only three games for Class A Visalia before returning for a visit to an infectious-disease doctor in Tucson this week.
"He didn't feel too good this time around," GM Josh Byrnes told the Arizona Republic. "He felt very fatigued. It was back to some of the same issues that he was feeling before. It wasn't just how he felt playing, but how he felt all day long."
Jackson was diagnosed with valley fever after going on the disabled list May 12. Valley fever is contracted by inhaling spores of fungus in desert soil. Jackson's energy has been low for the past three months.
Chamberlain knows his plan of attack: Joba Chamberlain met with Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland to map out the rest of the season. The plan is for Chamberlain to make six more starts, though that could change if the team is able to shuffle the rotation for the start of the playoffs.
"I expect the unexpected at all times, but at least I have a good idea of what the plan is," Chamberlain told the New York Daily News. "Mentally, for me to know that this is the plan for the rest of the year, it's definitely calming."
Ortiz's homers bode well for Red Sox: The Red Sox are 17-2 when David Ortiz has hit a home run this season.
"When we go well, he's usually right in the middle of it," Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan told the Boston Globe. "As he goes, we seem to go, too."
Wins are Zito's main concern, not stats: Barry Zito threw six scoreless innings on Wednesday but came away with a no-decision in a game San Francisco went on to win, 1-0.
"It's not about individual achievement anymore," Zito told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We're in a race. It's about the team getting a win every day, no matter how it happens. I think all these guys are willing to make sacrifices with statistics for the team to win.
"It's been the case most of the year," outfielder Nate Schierholtz said of Zito's lack of decisions. "His ERA is a lot better than his record, especially the last couple of months. He just hasn't gotten run support, unfortunately. He's had a great attitude and kept us in games."
-- Red Line Editorial