02.26.06

Batista Hits Fort Myers, Blames/Credits God

Posted in Baseball at 9:00 am by

Perhaps that crazy, batting stance is God’s Will? From the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen (link courtesy Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

3B Tony Batista, 32, was one of the quirkiest players in the majors before he left to play the 2005 season in Japan. From his unorthodox, wide-open batting stance to his quiet deeds of charity — such as the time he showed up at a random church in Kansas City with $16,000 in cash — Batista is nothing if not original.

Now baseball’s international man of mystery has resurfaced. This time, as the new third baseman for the Twins.

“God brought me here,” Batista said. “I missed one year, but I’m back.”

Here’s what the Twins know: Batista is a two-time former major league All-Star who signed a two-year, $15 million deal to play for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Japanese Pacific League.

But after a respectable 2005 season that saw him hit .263 with 27 home runs and 90 RBI, Batista was released. The Hawks let him keep all $15 million, allowing him to sign with the Twins for relative peanuts.

According to Gaku Tashiro, a reporter from the Japanese daily Sankei Sports, Batista’s contract was the biggest a Japanese team had ever given to a foreign player with no experience playing there.

“He was released for several reasons,” Tashiro wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “Manager Sadaharu Oh expected a lot. [Batista] was predicted to hit many home runs. But his numbers were not high enough for a high-paid foreign player and No. 3 hitter.

Batista played in 134 of his team’s 136 games, but he led Pacific League third basemen with 14 errors. Five of the six teams in that league play on artificial turf, which is interesting as Batista moves to the Metrodome, with its slower and more forgiving FieldTurf.

With Fukuoka, he said, he handed out Bibles inside the clubhouse to his Japanese teammates.

“And they read the Bible,” he said, without sounding surprised. “So I think God probably said, ‘You’re done over there. So go back here to Minnesota and talk about Jesus Christ to those guys.”

For those who can’t get enough of cultural misunderstandings, here’s video of Batista getting hit by a pitch in Japan (Windows Media Player required).

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