By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In the year-ending column, we say goodbye to ’Kuma, hello to Nori, MMA news, and Doug Baldwin is on fire!
’Kuma out, Nori in for Mariners
The Seattle Mariners have undergone a huge amount of changes with a new manager and general manager. Also, a lot of changes were made to the Mariners roster as the team suffered through another disappointing season. This meant that the Mariners said goodbye to pitcher Hishasi Iwakuma and hello to outfielder Nori Aoki.
Iwakuma was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month. He will earn $45 million over three years, which one would suspect is a raise from what the Mariners were offering him. Iwakuma was going into a year where he was a free agent and had the opportunity to field offers from other teams. You may recall that Iwakuma pitched a no-hitter this past season and despite fighting injuries, had a good year with the club.
Many believed that Iwakuma would return this year with the Mariners but the Dodgers came to Iwakuma with a better offer. Many Mariners fans will miss Iwakuma. He was a solid pitcher behind Felix Hernandez in the pitching rotation.
Although Iwakuma is leaving, we can say hello to Norichika Aoki. The 34-year-old outfielder was signed as a free agent from the San Francisco Giants.
Aoki was signed as new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto hopes to have an outfield that is more athletic and gets on-base. Aoki spent four years in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, and San Francisco Giants after coming from Japan.
MMA fighter passes away trying to make weight
Yang Jian Bing, 21, passed away attempting to “cut” weight for an upcoming event at an event in the Philippines. The Chinese fighter was going to be on a fight card on Dec. 11 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Bing was rushed to the hospital due to dehydration and possible heat stroke. He passed away of cardiopulmonary failure.
“Cutting” weight is a term used by many in combat sports. The athlete loses weight in order to make a designated weight class. They are weighed the day before the fight and then allowed to “re-hydrate” and gain back the weight that they lost prior to the actual fight. The problem is that many fighters lose as much as 20 pounds in a short period of time to make the necessary weight limit. As one might conclude, this could lead to potential health issues such as in this unfortunate instance. Although officials have yet to conclude that Yang’s death was a direct result of cutting weight, it would not be surprising. Unfortunately, dropping weight before a fight is normal and many risk severe health issues, and even death.
Benson Henderson fights in South Korea
Federal Way’s Benson Henderson had a unique opportunity to participate in an Ultimate Fighting Championships card in Seoul, South Korea, in November. The Decatur High School graduate and former UFC lightweight champion defeated Jorge Masvidal in the main event of the card. The Korean fans were in full force for Henderson. The event drew over 12,000 fans to the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul. The venue hosted the gymnastic competitions for the 1988 Summer Olympics. It was a special moment for Henderson, as his mother is Korean and he is very close to his mother. Henderson has several tattoos in Korean as a sign of pride in his heritage.
It was the last UFC fight under Henderson’s contract and he is a “free agent” able to sign with other leagues if he so chooses. At the age of 32, Henderson still has several good years in front of him. We will see if he stays with the UFC or goes with another organization. There are rumors that a league in Asia may be interested in Henderson, which would make sense since he has a lot of Asian fans and could draw many due to his popularity.
Doug Baldwin dazzling as Seahawks surge
Doug Baldwin has led the revitalized Seattle Seahawks offense as the team and offense have shaken off a slow start to win 6 out of 7 games for an 8-5 record. Based on the way they are playing, the Seahawks should make the playoffs and once again have a shot to play in the Super Bowl. A part of the resurgence for the team is the passing attack led by quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin, who is part Filipino, is having a career year with 11 touchdowns this season. In comparison, he had just three touchdowns last year and five scores the year before that.
In just the last three games, Baldwin had eight touchdowns which equals the amount he scored in the past two seasons. He is becoming the “go to” receiver for Wilson with multiple catches over the middle of the field and reliable hands on 3rd down.
For a team that found it hard to score at the beginning of the season, the Seahawks are beginning to click during December. Let’s hope we can see the Hawks make another long run into January and into February with a third straight Super Bowl appearance. If the Hawks continue to play well, expect Baldwin to play a huge part of the success. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.