Cecil Fielder is returning as a hero after becoming the first major league baseball player in 13 years to hit 50 home runs in a season.
Chicago Cubs manager Don Zimmer is returning as a curious observer of how Japanese baseball has changed in the last 24 years.Both arrived today with a 26-member U.S. all-star team that will open an eight-game series Friday against a Japanese all-star team.
Fielder played for the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League in 1989 and hit 38 home runs and drove in 81 runs in 106 games.
This year he hit 51 home runs and drove in 132 runs for the Detroit Tigers.
Zimmer played with Japan's Daiei Flyers, now of the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Pacific League, in 1966. He hit nine home run and batted .182 in 87 games.
"It's a great honor for me to be named the manager of the all-star team of the major leagues," Zimmer said in a statement. "At the same time, my heart is filled with expectations. We formed the strongest team ever and will play a showdown with a Japan all-star team. I hope Japanese fans will enjoy each of the games."
Others making the trip include Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds and Toronto's Kelly Gruber. Bonnds hit 33 homers and had 52 stolen bases this season. Gruber hit 31 homers.
Among the starting pitchers, Oakland's Dave Stewart (22-11), Toronto's Dave Stieb (18-6) and Seattle's Randy Johnson (14-11) all had no-hitters this season.
Chicago reviever Bobby Thigpen, who had a record-shattering 57 saves this season, also made the trip.
Led by manager Masaaki Mori of the Japan Series champion Seibu Lions, the Japanese all-star team consists of leading players from the two six-team leagues - Central and Pacific.
The Triple-A San Francisco Seals opened the postwar U.S.-Japan baseball series in 1949, winning all seven games here.
U.S. major leaguers played in Japan for the first time in 1951, winning 13 games and tying two.
A Japanese team won a game against the Americans for the first time in 1953, but lost the other 11 games in that series.
In the last series in 1988, Japan won two, lost three and tied two.