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Shocker! Kevin Youkilis to play in Japan

By Scott Barancik, editor

Free agent Kevin Youkilis has covered a lot of ground the past two seasons, playing for A.L. teams in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

This time, he’s moving a little farther afield: Japan. The three-time All-Star, 34, has signed a one-year, $4-million deal to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the defending Japanese champion.

“He’s looking at this as a terrific life experience for his family,” agent Joe Bick said. Youkilis‘ wife and two children, ages 7 and 1, will spend the season with him.

Youkilis — who played just 28 games for the New York Yankees in an injury-plagued 2013 season — will be at least the fifth Jewish major leaguer to play in Japan. He is preceded by Micah Franklin, Gabe Kapler, Richie Scheinblum and Josh Whitesell.

MLBTradeRumors.com reported that Youkilis had “received interest from eight or nine Major League clubs” but had been in talks with the Golden Eagles for several weeks.

Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka, who recorded an astounding 24-0 record in 2013, has been the subject of fevered speculation recently in the States. A number of Major League clubs have expressed interest in signing him, but the Golden Eagles have yet to decide whether to allow it.

“Rakuten” is an Internet shopping company. The baseball team is located in Sendai, in the Tohoku region of Japan. The Golden Eagles’ stadium was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami there in 2011.

Like Youkilis, Tampa Bay Rays free agent Sam Fuld reportedly has received interest from Japanese teams about the 2014 season.

Kapler, who overlapped with Youkilis in Boston from 2004-06 and spent part of the 2005 season playing for the Yomiuri Giants, tweeted Friday that he “had a good talk with Youkilis re Japan. He’s excited about something completely new in his life. Amazing cultural opportunity for Yoooouuk!”

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Baseball, as we all know, is a stats-obsessed sport.

Fans tend to be more interested in a player’s career HR total or on-base percentage than in his personal journey to the Majors.

That’s one of the nice things about Matzoh Balls and Baseballs, a book recently published by longtime Georgia State University broadcaster Dave Cohen. Cohen sat down with 17 retired Jewish pros, turned on a tape recorder, and, with a minimum of questions, let them talk.

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Note: Support Jewish Baseball News by clicking this Amazon.com link and buying Matzoh Balls and Baseballs there. Amazon will pay JBN a small commission (about 43 cents).

Disclosure: Havenhurst Books provided Jewish Baseball News with a free review copy of Matzoh Balls and Baseballs. No other consideration was provided.

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