D ♦ WBL Times ♦ Wednesday, January 29, 2004




Menace Mania


             “The team’s performance is well under expectations, fans show no interest in buying tickets, and the Menace should consider trading ANX away…” This was the attitude of many fans before the season begun. Following a long rest, ANX came back to show why he is considered by many as the best player in the WBL. Meanwhile the team let go of Ken Griff to finish the trade that the team acquired Mujuri Shipal, Dice Jackson, and Nolan Ryan, which has helped make Menace’s performance this season unparalleled.

             Compare to Canadiens and Expos, Menace name spreads quickly. You can see Menace fans everywhere and tickets of last season’s games are sold out all the time. Even in the hockey community, baseball becomes more popular. Also, one of the radio stations broadcasts the WBL baseball games on their station.

             Since the beginning of the franchise, many different players have appeared on the team. From Shawn Walker in the early years, to later members like Brock Weathers and David May Sr., all of them have kept people of Montreal hopes high. Some players left the team – one of the most notable was David May Sr. Even David May Jr., who is his son, couldn’t convince him to stay. ANX fought the battles alone in the year that followed and the burden of carrying the team finally led to his injury.

             These situations are common throughout WBL history. However, it has been distressing to watch for Montreal Menace fans. Every year, fan expectations had been getting higher and higher and disappointment inevitably followed.

             Facing intense pressure, the team implemented a comprehensive new set of strategies and by the end of 2008; the Montreal Centre was packed once again, winning the World Series. Just how did they do it?


New Rotation, New Style

             For the 2008 season, the biggest change was replacing David May Jr., the most winning pitcher in Montreal history, with Nolan Ryan. A bold move.

             The new rotation has shown its passion and made its expectations clear to the rest of the team members. Before training began, Jeremy Shirley ordered a custom – made notice board with the phrase, ‘Men Working! No cell phones’ written on it. The message is clear: with Shirley at the helm, discipline will never be lax. He has also changed the playing style of the team. He persists in exercising a home run approach, rather than everyone hitting for average and ‘cover - up’ strategies.


Star Quality

             To strengthen the team, Menace traded away the prominent Reynolds and the popular Ken Griff Sr. to the Frankfurt Force and acquired Mujuri Shipal, Dice Jackson and Nolan Ryan.

             Mujuri Shipal has been a star WBL player for two years since he joined the league and he is experiencing the golden period of his career right now. Having Mujuri Shipal team up with Jeremy Shirley, has boosted the Menace’s fire power dramatically.

             Dice Jackson is another key contributor who is strong in scoring runs and hitting. To him, hitting 3 homeruns or getting 7 RBIs in one game is an easy task. Though the 6’ 2” Ryan is inexperienced, his energy and power provide reliable support to the mound.

             After Reynolds and Ken Griff Sr. were transferred, the outstanding new player, Adam Brown, became a starter. With his tremendous improvement, he has gained the team’s and the audiences’ acceptance. As a hitter, Sam Hill has displayed great skills. With the new dynamic, the structure of the starting lineup is finally falling into place.


Tiny pitcher, big heart

             Among all the opportunities that have come Mujuri Shipal’s way since he won Olympic baseball gold for Japan in Sydney the most special may have been the chance to meet Jeremy Shirley.

             He was awestruck when led into a room to meet the WBL legend during a celebration of World Series in October of 2008.

             WBL Times’ reporter, Steve Francis, recently visited Montreal Centre during a Menace training session. Below is an interview conducted with Mujuri Shipal:


Steve Francs: You took your Masters in criminology at university. What were you planning to do with your degree when you’re done?

Mujuri Shipal: (starts chuckling before the question is finished) That’s a question I don’t find very endearing. I’m not really sure. I was looking at opportunities at the UN before. One of the profs I use to work with has contacts there. I liked diplomacy. That’s one of the things I also looked at, working in the diplomatic corps. It was going to be a decision between either with Japan or with USA. I was going to decide that after the Olympics, but I received an offer from St. Louis Stallions while rolling around my room.


Steve Francis: Why did you decide to specialize in criminology?

Mujuri Shipal: As a kid, I flirted with wanting to be a lawyer, and then I wanted to be a journalist. But I think the particular spark was that in the house I was living at before, there was one of my neighbors who the police came looking for at about 12 o'clock at night. They had a warrant for him, but he wasn’t there. But they came and knocked on my door and woke me up. They wanted to know if I had seen him. I told them I hadn’t seen him all day. And they wanted to come in and see if he was in my room. This was in 2006. I was just in USA for a couple of years. I know in Japan they would just break your door and come in. And here they were asking me for permission to even stop in my house. I’m like ‘This is so cool.’ (Laughs) I decided criminology was something I wanted to know more about.


Steve Francis: Who were your heroes growing up in Japan?

Mujuri Shipal: I looked up to the sports heroes, some like Kazuhiro Sasaki, who was a closing champion of the MLB. Later, you started hearing about Nelson Mandela and all the struggles he had undergone. And Jeremy Shirley was a big one. But after I grew up, I realized that probably my greatest hero must be my grandmother, because of everything she has done for me.


Steve Francis: What kind of influence did your grandmother have on you?

Mujuri Shipal: MY parents left to study in England when I was young, so my grandmother was like my mom and my dad and my friend, everything. In Japan, corporal punishment; ‘flogging kids,’ is a rampant thing. But she never laid her hands on me one day. Me and my sisters who stayed with her pretty much had what we needed. We always had four meals, and we also knew she would share anything she had. Later, I found out that she wasn’t even my blood grandmother, she was my step grandmother. My grandfather actually passed away a few days after I was born. That made me respects her even more. I never knew that. When I came to USA, my mother told me. So, she has been the greatest influence in my life without a doubt. If I go home, I spend most of my time with her. I always have a blast with her.


Steve Francis: Describe what it’s like when you return to your home village?

Mujuri Shipal: It’s a big deal. The kids are very excited. Everyone wants to play baseball with me all the time. We have visitors at my place from morning until night, up until I want to go to bed. It’s just a riot. But it’s so fun, because you have old people who come and sit down and teach you things about life. Time goes by so fast. Because you grew up there and that is all you saw growing up, you always have an appreciation for it. This past Christmas, I didn’t get back and I felt like part of me wasn’t alive.


Steve Francis: You’ve been leading a project to build a well and baseball school in your home town. Has it taken over a lot of your life?

Mujuri Shipal: At this point, that project has taken a lot of my time and energy. It’s worthy because I don’t really mind it. I think it has kind of compromised my training a little bit, too. But I’m quite happy to do it because it’s something I seriously believe in. (Donations can be made through www.urgayifureadthis.com)


Steve Francis: You just had your son, describe his ideal woman that you will accept.

Mujuri Shipal: She has to definitely be smart, because I think I’m going to be a very public figure. I want him to get a woman who can hold her end of the bargain and represent herself very well in public. I am not really worried about color. It doesn’t matter where she’s from, but someone that he can have a conversation with, somebody who is funny and can keep him on his toes. Somebody athletic, too, who takes care of their body. It’s not too much. I just think he needs somebody he can be very attracted to and someone that I can be comfortable with.


Steve Francis: You live in Canada, how good are you on skates?

Mujuri Shipal: Not at all. I tried skates once and I could not even move a step. It was pretty horrible experience, I should say.


Steve Francis: What actor would you pick to play in the Mujuri Shipal Story if it would ever be created?

Mujuri Shipal: Jackie Chan, if he hasn’t died yet.


Steve Francis: Given your status as an Olympic champion and World Series winner, is a lot expected of you when you go back to Japan?

Mujuri Shipal: So much. So much. I get a lot of people who want me to donate money to different causes, to set up scholarships, to buy different equipments. All over the board, because people think I’m a multimillionaire.


Steve Francis: Are you a millionaire?

Mujuri Shipal: No even close. But I do feel okay. I feel fortunate. It’s mainly because I spend it right away whenever I get my pay.



Chill GM’s job safe for now


             Jason Rhiner does not have a new, signed contract to continue as the Chills general manager – yet – but there’s no doubt he’s got the support of the WBL’s commissioner. Jeremy Shirley, the chairman of the board of WBL, and the driving force behind the ownership group, said yesterday Rhiner is anything but a lame – duck general manager in the last few months of a contract.

             “That’s absolutely not the case at all,” Shirley said. “Jason has our full support to build and shape this team in the future.”

             Rhiner, whose contract expires at the end of the current WBL season, met yesterday with the league’s board of directors to discuss a wide array of topics.

             “I can’t tell you for a fact that Jason made an excellent presentation to our board yesterday and there is a game plan in place, that he laid out and we’ve approved” said Shirley.

             Sources say the presentation covered such items as possible player acquisitions, budgets for the rest of this season and the free – agency period this summer as well as current staff issues, including first – ear coach Andrew Biggs.

             “It covered everything,” said Shirley.

             Rhiner has been in for some harsh criticism of late as his team limped miserably lately. He said Monday he realizes there are flaws in the roster and he’s taking steps to correct them, but that “you have to work through the process.” Shirley would not say whether there have even been talks on a new contract for Rhiner, who took over the team from the start of the Antarctica franchise.

             However, Shirley made it clear that Rhiner’s future is bright.

             “As far as we’re concerned, Jason has been a valued, long – term employee,” said Shirley. “We have an understanding even if it’s year – to – year.”

             There are those within the Chills organization who suggest Rhiner could be in for a new contract that is as long as three years. And with coach Biggs only under contract for this season and next, tying up the two of them for a longer term would send a message to the players that says management has the complete backing of ownership. Rhiner has been trying to remake a Chills lineup that fell to a ridiculous 5 – 50 record first half of season under manager Eduard Levshteyn.

             He was part of the group that fired Levshteyn and hired the energetic Andrew Biggs to replace him and then began dismantling the roster. Faced with Smith N Wesson’s blatant demands to be traded, Rhiner shipped the disgruntled power pitcher to Frankfurt for M. Chang, A. Withers, J. Vish, L. Jones, and M. Patterson in a March trade that provided an offensive spark – at the cost of some pitching – to a team that has the worst per – game runs scored average in the league.



For Argument’s Sake

Question: Is Jeremy Shirley to blame for the firing of Tom Kenny in Dublin?


Mujuri Shipal

             Max Baez’s fingerprints are all over the knife they extracted from the back of former Dublin Fighting Irish manager Tom Kenny this week, but it was placed in his grubby little finger by WBL’s commissioner Jeremy Shirley. By leaving Kenny twisting in the wind, without a contract extension despite two straight trips to the playoffs and without much public support, Shirley is the real culprit behind the decision to fire Kenny and replace him with Eric Mayo, who also bears some culpability. Kenny has his problems, no doubt about that. He ceded too much control. He spent his entire first season, it seems, and ripping his players publicly and he certainly didn’t distinguish himself as a tactician in either final.

             But he did engineer one of the more dramatic turnarounds in sports history, leading the moribund Fighting Irish from laughingstock to Eastern Hemisphere prominence. Shirley should have either fired Kenny last summer, when Baez made it known he wanted a new coach, or given him a contract extension that would have showed the manager – killing pitcher who was in charge. But to handle it as he did will leave a mark on a reputation that’s taken a beating this week.

             And whoever replaces rookie manager Eric Mayo this summer had better take notice: When you need your commissioner for support, he might be off playing golf with the pitcher. He won’t be in the manager’s corner.


Kurtis Rands

             Tom Kenny probably has a whole list of people he’s mad at and Jeremy Shirley is probably on it. But my guess is that he’s not at the top. That spot should be occupied by Max Baez, because if there was an architect of Kenny’s destruction, it was the Fighting Irish’s all – star starting pitcher. Tom never got credit for the Fighting Irish’s success. It was always backfield coaching brilliance and Baez’s on – field savvy that were cited as the reason the team, once the laughing stock of the WBL, made it to two consecutive playoffs.

             Sure, you need a number of elements to become an elite team. A high – caliber starting pitcher is one. A good coaching staff is another. But, what, Kenny was just a figurehead in Dublin? Had nothing to do with any of the team’s success? I can’t buy that. The Fighting Irish are probably not going to have another 67 – win season, the way they did in 2007. They might be knocked out of the playoffs earlier than June. It happens. Look at the Los Angeles Lakers. They’re in trouble, too, but they haven’t fired Phil Jackson, as much as many people would like to see that guy, I mean that guy, gone. Kenny’s firing proves that politics are everywhere, whether it’s a baseball team or basketball team or a newspaper or a widget factory. Someone’s got to take the fall to appease the chosen one – Baez – and this time, it was Kenny.

             So the manager shouldn’t blame Shirley, who was just the messenger. And chalk up yet another assist to Baez.



Cougars pitcher: Forgive me for being gay


             Cougars major league pitcher TJ Farrell (A.K.A. TJ Fatass) is asking for forgiveness for what he called a couple of time mistake – his appearance in gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act. Fatass took part in the video a year ago when he wasn’t gay. Sitting in the Caracas clubhouse yesterday, the pitcher said.

             “All of us have made mistakes in our lives, now I’m gay,” Fatass said reading a statement in Spanish. “Hopefully, I will learn from them and move on to being gay; I can do anything else no more.”

             Shunned by Venezuela baseball, the 23 – year – old Fatass signed with the Cougars last off season.

             “I did participate in a video and the guys there convinced me to be gay, I do not regret one bit,” he said. “It was one – time incident that was thought to be a bad judgment but turned out to be very good, but it will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball and was in need of money.” “Frankly, if I were more mature and had really thought about the implications of what I did, such a gift from God never would have happened.”

             He also added: “I’m gay. But I’d like to clear the fact that I have a boy friend up right now who was in the video with me.”



Final Say


             Interesting weekly, eh? I would like to make something clear, though; I did get an idea of TJ Fatass being gay from the incident of Kazuhito Tadano, Indians pitcher. And those of you who weren’t helpful, I am still in need of ideas, only reason I wrote that rather offensive article on the last section is because I was out of ideas. If you have any, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE e-mail me on hotmale_dot_com79@hotmail.com or PM me on the message board. I hope you enjoyed this week’s weekly. I am your writer, Mujuri Shipal, from the WBL Times.