Lesson 1: They are not the Ham Fighters! The team is owned by a meat-packing company called Nippon Ham. In fact, in order to avoid confusion in the English-speaking community, a hyphen has been added between the two words on official team merchandise and publications, and the corporate logo spells it as a single word.
The Fighters became the northernmost baseball team in Japan in 2004 when they transplanted the organization from Tokyo to Sapporo. Before that, they spent their entire existence buried in the pile of teams that played their home games in the capital. In fact, they even shared a home with the Yomiuri Giants (easily the nation’s most popular team) from 1964 until 2003, first at Korakuen Stadium, and then at the Tokyo Dome.
The Fighters (formerly the Flyers and before that, the Senators) experienced little success on the mainland, with just two Pacific League pennants during that time. The move up north, where the air is much fresher (even in their dome), seems to have done them some good, as they had a strong decade with five pennants from 2006-16. It helped that they boasted ace pitchers like Yu Darvish (2005-11) and Shohei Ohtani (2013-17) as well.
While pitching/hitting dual threat Ohtani may be the most talented, the most accomplished player in team history is unquestionably Isao Harimoto, who holds the NPB record for career hits with 3,085. His 504 career home runs are also good for 7th on the all-time list. Harimoto aside, not many Fighters have made it into the history books.
They do have the fortunes of being the lone professional team on a vast island, isolated from the rest of the league, which gives them a reasonably widespread fan base. It also means that their travel schedule is likely the hardest in NPB, as road travel is all by airplane (unlike other teams, who primarily travel by bullet train). However, they do benefit from playing home games in Japan’s newest and most state-of-the-art ballpark, ES CON Field Hokkaido, which replaced the Sapporo Dome for the 2023 season.
Team Slogan 2023: 新時代 Fans Are Our Treasure (Shinjidai = New Era)
Current Standout Players: Go Matsumoto (29, OF): .347/.398/.438, 21 SB, Best Nine in 2022 / Takayuki Katoh (30, LHP): 147.2 IP, 8 W 7 L, 2.01 ERA, 98 K in 2022
Current Manager: Tsuyoshi Shinjo (since 2022)
Franchise Established on: November 6, 1945
Pacific League Pennants Won: 7 (1962, 1981, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2016)
Championships Won: 3 (1962, 2006, 2016)
Notable MLB Exports: Yoshinori Tateyama (Rangers, etc.), Yu Darvish (Rangers, etc.), Shohei Ohtani (Angels), Kohei Arihara (Rangers)
Spring Training Location: Nago, Okinawa