Notes: Padres partner with Japan team
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PEORIA, Ariz. -- National pastime? Maybe, but the Padres continue to show an interest in expanding their search for talent beyond the borders of the United States.The Padres on Tuesday announced that they have established a working agreement with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League. In April, the Padres will open their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, which will give them a greater presence in Latin America. As for the partnership with the Fighters, Padres general manager Kevin Towers said the agreement is important in that it will allow them far better access to scouting reports on potential players. "I think because of the distance, it can be difficult to have the wherewithal to spend a lot of time over there watching their industrial-league, passed-over players in their draft that might be available to be signed," Towers said. "And by having a presence over there, we have access to scouting information for players who might become posted or become free agents. ... A lot of Asian players have impacted our game, not just solid players but good players." This is the Padres' second partnership with a team in Japan. In the mid '90s, the Padres had a similar agreement with Seibu that eventually led to the signing of pitcher Hideki Irabu, a signing that eventually led to the current posting system in place for Japanese players who wished to play in the Major Leagues. When Irabu said he only would play for the Yankees, the Padres eventually traded him to New York. Towers said the agreement with the Fighters will also be beneficial to them as well. "They rely heavily on import players. They'll have access to our scouting information to help them make wiser decisions of who they bring over there," he said. Former Padres pitcher Brian Sweeney and outfielder Terrmel Sledge -- who was on the Padres' Opening Day roster in 2007 -- are members of the Fighters. "They have had a lot of success in recent years -- it's a similar market like ours. They're not the big-spending clubs like the Yomiuri Giants," Towers said. "So they have to do a good job acquitting talent in the U.S. They're a very progressive organization that's not afraid to try some new things. Hopefully this will benefit us both."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.