Monthly Archives: May 2017

Winning better than losing… except when it’s not

The Sharks narrowly defeated the Kungsbacka Chiefs in game one of Saturday’s three-team tripleheader, but perhaps even more satisfying was staying within range of the Vithajarna for most of game two.

The veteran Vithajarna squad was stacked; a bona fide all-star team with many of the Gothenburg club’s top players from years past. Warming up for the final game of the day against the Vithajarna, the prospects were not good for the Sharks. They would be facing former national team pitcher Curtis Donne, and were down to just eight players with several key team members unavailable due either to injuries or prior commitments.

Shervin Shakki held the Vithajarna to one unearned run in the first inning, even though there were just two of the team’s less experienced players covering Shark Park’s vast outfield. But help was on the way. When the Sharks took the field in the bottom of the second, standing in center was Zaki and Yudai Yamazaki’s father Chikara, making his first appearance in organized baseball after a layoff of fifteen years. The elder Yamazaki wasted little time in demonstrating his skills, promptly throwing out a runner trying to advance to third.

Zaki, Yukai and Chikara Yamazaki

Shervin Shakki, Yudai Yamazaki and Rickard “Comeback Kid” Kronqvist were solid on the mound, and most runs scored by the Vithajarna were unearned. Despite the sometimes-shaky defense, the Sharks played well for the most part and were still in the game until the late innings before going down 10–3.

Saturday’s matchups drew Shark Park’s largest crowd in years, close to matching typical Elite opening day attendance figures. Enthusiasm was high among all three squads and all are hoping for a rematch later in the season. The Sharks are already scheduled to face the Vithajarna again on August 12.

It was so much fun to have the old crew back together. We may have all gotten a lot older but the passion and will to make plays and make outs was still there. Denis, hadn’t played in 17 years got behind the plate and caught in both games and blocked to left and right and handled the pitchers in a tremendous way. Hitting wise it was amazing to see how quickly these old players adapted and got back into the groove with good at bats and driving the ball to all fields. Robin Bandgren was even hitting and driving the ball to all fields better than he did during his active period so perhaps Hajarna can hope for a comeback? At times the hits from the old guys were longer than the old players could sprint, trying to go for doubles and triples making people breath really hard to catch our breath but having fun all the way. Martin and Robin did a good job pitching in the first game, in the second Curtis still looked amazing, good velocity and control mowing player down, pitching 4 innings of 1-hit ball and when Hajarna managed to put the ball in play there was a solid defense behind him making it look easy and making outs.
Sami took over and started impressive, throwing hard but lost control for a while and allowed the opposing team to reach on a few walks and then score on wild pitches before he managed to regain control and close out the game.

It was a really strong impressive crew, could definitely see the shape of the team was not what it used to be for many of the players but still it was very impressive to see all the players and we all had so much fun. We will now go back and try to heal and rehab our bodies to be back for the second occasion in August.

Vithajarna       1 0 5  5 2 – 13
Kungsbacka    3 0 0  4 3 – 10
Göteborg        0 0 0  0 0 3 – 3
vithajarna       1 0 3  0 2 4 – 10

Offense and official scorer fail Sharks

First loss of the season does not sound so bad.
But it was kind of bad.
“We played better than last week,” coach Edgren said.

Shervin Shakki (0-1) started game one at Afzelius park in Tranås and, from the get-go, showed that he wants to reign as the ace of the Gothenburg Sharks (2-2) rotation this season. Striking out the side in the first inning while pitching his first game to new battery mate Zaki Yamazaki was an impressive start.

But he was just getting started.

Shakki pitched great all game long and gave up no earned runs over six innings, even though the box score says so. Per usual, the hometown scorer was fonder of awarding home players with hits and therefore excluding a lot of errors on the Sharks defensive side. He did give up a couple of hits (unclear how many as the hits correlate with the errors that do not appear in the box score) walking only one and striking out seven. ‘Swirvin’ Shakki was, however, tagged with the loss as the Sharks offense failed immensely.

Going up against veteran pitcher Nils Bergehed (1-1), the Sharks could not get anything going. While Bergehed pitched great, went the full seven while allowing one run on three hits and four walks, the Sharks did not string anything together. All day long, patience was lacking at the plate and despite having a hectic preseason, they were not locked in at the plate.

To their credit, Tranås played great defense all day long and was booked for no errors (wait, what?) in that first game that ended 4-1 in the favor of Tranås.

Apparently, the Tranås side also believe winning is better than losing.

The veteran trio of Rickard Kronqvist, Toofan Khazal and Jonny Edgren was the only Sharks credited with hits in the box score but due credit should go to regional debutant Zaki Yamazaki. Catching that first game, giving veteran Khazal some much needed rest, she was very impressive. While keeping Shakki calm and framing pitches all day long, she also threw out runners, successfully tagged runners out at the plate and drew two walks while going 0-1.

Mokhlad al-Ghanimi (1-1) started game two and looked pretty good, although maybe not as sharp as the Hajarna faithful has gotten used to. Walking three, striking out seven and giving up two hits looks pretty nice, but add three runs to that (on three wild pitches) and al-Ghanimi himself is not happy.

The Sharks offense was even more toothless in this one as they only amassed two hits (Shakki, Eric Marquez) and two walks against Tranås starter Felix Millan Casanova (1-0). But wait, now you’re wondering how the frick the Sharks lost 10-0 when starter al-Ghanimi only gave up three runs. Yeah, well about that…

Coach Edgren got some questionable advice to send a hobby reporter to the mound after al-Ghanimi had gone four innings. While the reporter got out of the first inning unscathed, the next one was not so pretty.

He walked a about a million batters and gave up close to that many hits, but may have been the only Sharks player drawing cheers from the home crowd as he made sure the mercy in mercy rule was invoked.

“Who are you to ask that frickin’ question?” the reporter muttered when he tried to interview himself after the game.

On the whole, it was two close, well played games (apart from the inning thrown by yours truly) that quite possibly was fun to watch.

“Even though we lost today, it was a step forward. We look forward to hosting Karlskoga in two weeks,” coach Jonny Edgren said.


The Sharks DL is getting crowded. Niclas Ekström and José Munoz was already there. Add to that that ace pitcher Mokhlad al-Ghanimi and Daniel André and those playoff hopes are starting to look grim.

‘Swirvin’ Shervin Shakki is having a breakout season at the plate with a slash line of .500/.500/.625/.1125.

Sharks had brilliant sushi between games, courtesy of the Yamazaki family.

Quick recap: Sharks played better, got swept

Tranås flashed their power as still being a force in the regional series on Sunday.
The Sharks showed they still have some ways to go.

Even though the Sharks (2-2) got swept on Sunday, they played better than the weekend before when they took two from the Malmö Pilots. This time, the Sharks got outplayed by the opposition and somewhat by themselves.

The first game was awfully close as the teams traded zeroes and it was eventually decided by the Tranås (2-2) side cashing in on the Sharks defensive miscues. That is not to take anything away from ‘Swirvin’ Shervin Shakki who pitched one of his best games in his career, going six innings while allowing no earned runs (no matter what the official scorer might say). Also, the birth of a succesful (and quite possibly the shortest) battery might have been seen as Zaki Yamazaki was excellent behind the plate in her regional series debut. In Zaki, the team might have found relief to veteran catcher Toofan Khazal who is needed on other places on the diamond and, well, no one should catch 14 innings on a day.

Apparently, the Tranås side also believe winning is better than losing.

Speaking of Khazal, he teamed up with ace pitcher Mokhlad al-Ghanimi for the second one and apart from a short stint in the second inning, it looked like the rust was gone. Unfortunately, the Sharks had forgot the bats at home for both games as they never got going at the plate and showed impatience.

Game two was decided when Coach Edgren decided to throw in this reporter on the mound for his regional series debut. While the first inning went well, the second one quickly got out of hand and resulted in a mercy rule ending.

“Even though we lost today, it was a step forward. We look forward to hosting Karlskoga in two weeks,” Jonny Edgren said.

On the whole, it was two close, well played games (apart from the inning thrown by yours truly) that quite possibly was fun to watch. Final scores were 1-4 and 0-10.

A longer recap will follow when box scores are available. 

Kris Bryant has respect for Tranås

It took the Cubs 108 years to win another World Series.
It took Kronqvist 18 years to get back on the field.
”I feel like Kris Bryant,” he says.

The last time Rickard Kronqvist played Tranås, some players on the 2017 Sharks roster were not even born. The Chicago Cubs were still enduring the curse of the Billy Goat and was soon to experience the Steve Bartman incident.

But with the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series over the Cleveland Indians all those curses were thrown out the window. More important, it brought Kronqvist back to the diamond. A bet was placed all those years ago, to start playing baseball again when the Cubs took the Series.

“It was more of a promise than a bet. Promises are meant to be kept and it became a win-win situation for me,” Kronqvist says.

Showing up to practice in his Kristianstad uniform, the younger members on the Sharks roster wondered what kind of relic had found his way to Shark Park. Soon, they found out that the relic was more of an old school ringer.

“It’s an amazing team that really play their hearts out, have fun and are always trying to improve. Just like me,” the utility player says.

During the preseason, Kronqvist has been synonymous with the term utility player. Playing all over the field, including pitching and catching. And even picking his first balls at first base during his Regional series debut.

“I felt like Kris Bryant when I played. That is to say, I played with a smile on my face. The similarities stop there, but it was great to be back,” Kronqvist says, still puzzled from the experience.

“He’s my boy!” Kris Bryant might have said. Or not. Who knows?

That first game did go well nonetheless, playing seven perfect innings in left field and first base. On the offensive side of the ball, he got on base in all four plate appearances, drawing walks, much like in the good old days.

Ah, yes, the good old days. The last active season for Kronqvist was the 98/99 season playing for Marsa Mustangs on Malta and winning the national championships. Since then, a lot has changed in Swedish baseball and Kronqvist recognizes both the good and the bad.

“There are fewer teams now, but they are all making an effort to include juniors. And nowadays, they all think that winning is better than losing,” he says.

See that guy at first? That might be Kronqvist.

For this upcoming weekend, the Sharks face a fierce competitor as they head to Tranås for a double header. Last season, Tranås finished in fifth place at 11-5 but like the Sharks, they were eliminated in the first playoff round.

This season, Tranås started out facing the heavy favorites Karlskoga Bats during their opener and lost both games, which probably says nothing about the strength of Tranås as a team.

“Last time I faced them was probably in 96 or 97. But they are a solid team, you always have to respect them,” Kronqvist says.

“And one more thing. I hope my comeback will inspire others and bring people back to playing the game in Sweden. Don’t live on past memories, come down to the park and create new ones,” he adds before running off to another practice.

First pitch in Tranås is at 12.00 on Sunday.

Sharks take two from Pilots in home opener

The Sharks swept the Malmö Pilots in Saturday’s opening day doubleheader by scores of 10-7 and 16-6 behind solid pitching from Mo Mo AL-Ghanimi, Mikael Lindquist, Shervin Shakki and Jose Martinez.

Despite what might be suspected by the high scores in Saturday’s doubleheader, pitchers from both teams pitched effectively, but with spotty defense, it was seldom enough with three outs to get out of an inning. Balls bounced off gloves and rolled between legs one minute, but were flagged down with highlight-reel catches the next.

Aggressive base running was exhibited by both teams Saturday, but not necessarily smart base running. There were pickoffs, missed signs and even one play with two base runners both heading for second but from different directions.

What it came down to was that the Sharks had the pitching depth to compensate for their mistakes, the Pilots did not.

Al-Ghamini getting it done

“We can play much better than this,” Coach Edgren reportedly told the team in a closed door session after the game. “And we will.”

Meanwhile the first base coach was seen in a corner of the clubhouse, muttering profanities to no one in particular and something about winning being better than nothing, or possibly, better than losing.

Box scores

Shark players not overworked for home opener

Last practice before the season opener.
Worst turnout all year.
“We need more kids that practice as often as some of our veteran players,” Edgren says.

So far, the season has been almost like a fairy tale. New players, good turnout, great atmosphere. Unfortunately, that has not been the story the last week or two.

“On the whole we have a good turnout with an average of 12-14 people, but it’s rare that we have our starting lineup on the field at the same time,” Coach Jonny Edgren says.

For a team that has been lacking in consistency on defence and on occasion bad communications, teamwork is of the essence and that is not supported by low turnout rate at practices. The week leading up to the first regular season games of the season has seen especially low attendance.

“Many people has denied writing this, especially Jason Norderum.”

“Looking at our whole 24-man roster, one could think it would be nice to see more people there,” Edgren says.

For the home opener on Saturday, May 12th, the Sharks faithful are looking to ace pitcher Mokhlad al-Ghamini to keep the Malmö Pilots on the ground. Coach Edgren will most likely turn to young gun ‘Swirvin’ Shervin Shakki and comeback kid José Martinez to take the mound as well.

On the offensive side of the ball, Sharks will miss the presence of Niclas Ekström in the heart of the lineup but are hoping to find other players to pick up the slack.

“I have great confidence in this group of guys. Whatever has been thrown at them, they’ve come out on the other side stronger and better,” Edgren says.

First pitch at Shark Park against the Malmö Pilots is scheduled for 12.00.

“It will be great to have the regular season start again, hopefully winning will be better than losing this season as well,” Edgren says before leaving for the video room and scouting of the Pilots pitchers.

Coach Edgren strikes gold in search for bullpen

Coach Jonny Edgren employed five pitchers in Sunday’s two narrow victories over the Skövde Saints, with Hannes Wiström, Daniel André and Alex Rikner all making their pitching debuts. Although all pitched well, Rikner was especially impressive, holding the Saints hitless over two innings, walking just two.

Rikard Kronqvist, undefeated in an earlier stint with the Marsa Mustangs at the turn of the century, was also impressive, but was experiencing pain Monday “in every single part” of his body. Shervin Shakki pitched the final innings of game 2 in his usual solid fashion.

Coach Edgren reminding the team that winning is better than losing.

The Sharks’ playoff hopes took a major hit Sunday in game one when hard-hitting Niclas Ekström, temporarily on loan to the Saints, caught a cleat in a dash to home and collided with Sharks catcher Toofan Khazal.

Ekström was diagnosed with a broken foot and has been placed on the 60-day DL. In a corresponding move, Isak “Izzy” Voigt Jansson was called up from the Sharks’ Umeå affiliate to take Ekström’s place on the 24-man roster.

Khazal was unhurt by the collision and showed no signs of a previously reported season-ending injury. Fans gathered at sports bars throughout the land to watch the games went wild when they saw Khazal take his usual place behind the plate. “He my man!” one boisterous Sharks fan was reported as saying.

Edgren looking for answers in Skövde

Only one week until regular season starts.
Only one spring training weekend remains.
Time for Coach Edgren to get some answers.
“I think the bullpen is most important this weekend,” he says.

Pitching depth is something that has been an issue for the Sharks organization for quite some time now. For years, there has been a need for more pitchers, especially Swedish, both in the bullen and in the rotation.

“I think it’s important for me this weekend, to see that we have sufficient depth in the bullpen,” Coach Jonny Edgren says.
“But then again, the most important thing is that everyone feel comfortable in their defensive positions and feel good at the plate,” he adds after some thought.

There has been a lot of talk about this Sharks team during the Swedish version of spring training. There has also been a lot of new players. With the influx of players and skill to the team, there has also been a lot of worry about team spirit and players not being in sync with each other.

“We have experienced players that know how to handle new players and between the regional series and the SWBL there is enough games to get everyone in the game,” Edgren says.

The quality of this image reflects that Jonny Edgren has been in the game for more than 30 years.

Preferably, there would be more games, more practices for the players to get to know each other but Edgren is certain that the current state of the team is beneficial for new players.

“This squad, this core group of guys are really a happy bunch of players. Really including and open, I can see how that really helps,” Edgren says.

Young guns Shervin ‘Swirvin’ Shakki and Hannes Wiström has showed off their skillset during spring training this season and Coach Edgren surely hopes that is something that will continue when the regular season starts.

“I hope that Shervin and Hannes continue to develop and can be a force at the plate this season,” Edgren says.

Adding players adds rivalry within the team. Rivalry can be good for the team, especially when such additions are Japanese siblings Yudai and Momoko ‘Zaki’ Yamazaki and dynamic duo José Martinez and José Munoz.

“I think ‘Zaki’ will surprise everyone this year and be atop the leaderboards on Heatstat,” Edgren says.

“Oh, I almost forgot, winning is better than losing,” Edgren adds before running off to yet another interview.


2017 Preview: Part 4 – The opposition

This is the fourth part of the 2017 regional preview for the Göteborg Hajarna. Ideally, this series would have concluded by looking at the opposition. And since the scouting department brought me ‘information’ about the Sharks upcoming opponents, this is now happening.

Disclaimer: This particular preview is the opinion of the scouting department and does not necessarily reflect the organization’s views or any other for that matter.

Malmö Pilots

The Sharks face off with their brothers from Malmö six times during the 2017 season, including the home opener and the final games of the regular season.

Last year’s record: 2-14
The Pilots was presumably not at all satisfied with their play in 2016 and it wasn’t an easy season for them. Struggling at times to fill out the roster come game day, it was impressive that they still showed loads of potential at times. They displayed great pitching at times and the top of the lineup looked especially solid.

Unknown. Last player update on the official website was a couple of years ago. No player news on the facebook page, nor Instagram. During the offseason, someone did post interest to play in the guestbook on their website.

This squad presumably thinks that winning is better than losing.

It’s hard to tell what kind of talent the Pilots added to their roster, or any other facts for that matter (this might be a theme during this preview). However, we do know that they played a spring training game against the Copenhagen Urban Achievers. While we have no idea how (or if) the game ended, it’s pretty neat to have some international experiences. Hopefully, that will help the Pilots in the upcoming season (hopefully not enough against the Sharks).

Karlskoga Bats

The Sharks overpowering big brother will visit Shark Park on June 4th.

Last year’s record: 13-3.
The Bats last season showed that they have the potential to advance to the Eliteserien as they only lost three games in the regular season and embarrassed the Sharks in the playoffs winning 15-0.

Acquisitions: Now we’re talking! Not only has the Bats made offseason acquisitions, they’ve also announced them to the world. Forrest Weaver and Rafael Torres are set to join Karlskoga in their ambition to advance to the Elitserien in 2018.

Weaver, 25, is a pitcher that can throw with both arms(!) and reaches low to mid 80s from both… arms… That was a weird sentence to write. Anywho, he can apparently throw a changeup and curveball from the left side and changeup and slider from his right. To go with a fastball from both sides of the plate. No, from both arms. Both sides of the mound? Weaver, whom has a coaching background despite his young age, will try to lead the young Bats players to new heights.

Rafael Torres was born in Puerto Rico and is primarily an outfielder but, from experience, professional baseball players could probably play any position in Sweden (including all positions in cricket, water polo and rugby). Torres, 26, like Weaver played baseball at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. And is though to be a force at the plate, among other things.

Well, the Bats were the best team by far in the southern parts of baseball Sweden before the acquisitions from Oklahoma and will quite possibly go through the Regional series undefeated. Top players from the 2016 season, such as Emil Lundh and pitcher Anton Carlson, will likely return and mixed with great talent from abroad, they undoubtedly have the best team from the old “Southern” division. This will presumably and, I would think from the Bats point of view, hopefully put them over the top on the whole regional level.

A younger Emil Lundh is possibly in this picture.

It will be exciting to see imports in the regional league and especially so with an ambidextrous pitcher. While it’s safe to assume that the Sharks, nor any other regional team, most likely will not stand a chance against the Bats, it will be fun to host them at Shark Park. Also, interesting to see how the farm team deal with Sölvesborg plays out as the Firehawks of Sölvesborg now have their own regional team.

Tranås Baseboll

The Sharks combat with Tranås four times during the 2017 season.

Last year’s record: 11-5.
Tranås can play baseball, there is no doubt about that. On occasion, they did have some troubles last year to field a team but that will hopefully be sorted out come the opener of this season.

Unknown. The website was last updated in 2014 and a facebook site is nowhere to be found. Nils Bergehed was one of the top pitchers in the league last season and rumor has it he will continue to pitch in 2017. Other than that, rumors about acquisitions have been sparse. However, there have been rumblings that the Jönköping side of the team has grown in numbers while the Tranås side has dwindled. It remains to be seen whether or not that is true and if it has an impact on their firepower.

The Sharks played the Jönköping side of the Tranås team in the SWBL.

One can never give up on the Tranås Baseball team. No matter what kind of players the lose or gain, they always show up with a competitive side. This upcoming season will be no exception. Markus Sandqvist was a force at the plate last season and his inclusion in the lineup will go a long way to ensure success for the Tranås side this season.

Norrköping Blue Sox

The Sharks has a double header at Norrköping in the beginning of August. They did not play Norrköping in 2016 and split the four game series with them in 2015.

Last year’s record: 2-14
The Blue Sox are still a new organization and a new team. As such, they are sure to have their growing pains but as they start their third season in regional ball they will quite possibly take a few steps forward.

Unknown. The website has not been updated (ever?) and no posts have been added to the instagram page for the last two years. They have, however, the best fangroup in all of Swedish baseball – Stödstrumporna (translation: compression stockings, not at all as much fun in English).

Jesus Mendoza was the main force in the Blue Sox lineup during last season. He had a shiny .500 average and an OPS north of .1200 which is… quite impressive. Other than that, Hampus Eriksson and Erik Lindström is the main batters to look for when scouting Norrköping.

The Norrköping catcher can only watch as the ball might be hit somewhere.

Sölvesborg Firehawks (B)

The Sharks travel to Deer Park for a meet and greet with the Firebats. It might be good that it’s only one double header as the Firehawks logo and jerseys are suspiciously similar to the Sharks. It would have been hard for the Sharks faithful to make sense of that situation.

Last year’s record: Did not play in the regional series.
It’s hard to make any kind of assumptions about the Firebats firepower in the 2017 version of the regional series. The organization is loaded with talent and has (had?) a farm deal with Karlskoga during the 2016 season. It is unclear, however, how much of that talent that will feature on the regional team.

Most of the news, rumblings and rumors from the organization has been about the elite team and the comings and goings of the international players. It’s sad to see Evan Porter leave Sweden as he was a treat to watch for any baseball fan but he would probably not have featured in the regional series anyway.

It’s unlikely that the very competitive organization would field at regional team without knowing they have the talent to back it up. Count on the Firebats to be a contender for the playoffs and that Deer Park is one of the cosiest ballparks in Sweden (sadly, they now have a electronic scoreboard).

This reporter is not a fan of modern things.