Padres take advantage of goodwill trip to Japan

Delegation of front-office members, players made trek to baseball-rich nation in November

Padres take advantage of goodwill trip to Japan

SAN DIEGO -- It makes perfect sense, given Padres general manager A.J. Preller's background, that he wants the organization to be more active in the Pacific Rim.

"It's an area our eyes are always on from a scouting standpoint," Preller said. "What we've tried to do is build a staff little by little and start to get some presence over there. I think we've been able to do that, little by little."

It started last year when Preller hired Acey Kohrogi as an advisor to the Padres' Pacific Rim operations. Kohrogi came to the team with a vast background in the region, having spent 20 years with the Dodgers, many of which came as the team's executive director of Asian operations.

Kohrogi is responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships with the Asian Baseball Leagues, including the Japanese Professional Baseball League (Nippon Professional Baseball) and the Japanese Amateur and Industrial Leagues.

Kohrogi's duties also include aiding with scouting and recruiting in the Pacific Rim, as well as facilitating player and roster transactions between the Padres and Asian Professional Baseball teams.

Last month, Kohrogi even got to play tour guide, as he helped organize a recent Padres trip to Japan. A San Diego delegation that included Preller, Kohrogi and other front-office staffers and pitchers Brandon Maurer and Colin Rea, spent time in Japan.

"It was awesome. The thing that stood out to me was how smart these kids were as far as the questions they asked," Rea said. "They were 9, 10, 11 years old and they were asking questions I never would have thought at that age."

MLB Japan put on two youth clinics that the Padres participated in -- one in Tokyo and one in Kochi -- with Rea and Maurer handing out pitching tips.

"It was a goodwill trip and a scouting trip," Kohrogi said. "I think it was good for the group to learn about Japan.

"I think when you have 200 Little League players and coaches all wearing Padres caps, it makes an impression."

It was also in Japan where Preller and his staff scouted the Premier 12 tournament, which was held in Japan for the top 12 national teams in the world. The Padres also, reportedly, met with third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who is a target.

"It's like a World Cup of baseball," Kohrogi said.

The Padres delegation was in Japan for five days, helping plant some seeds there -- not just in terms of youth baseball but establishing more of a presence.

"I think with A.J. being very international, knowing he's been to Japan with the Rangers, maybe even made 50-plus trips there, he saw that it was important to the Padres to be active there," Kohrogi said.

"This is the first step in getting ourselves more known and more entrenched in Japan."

Preller, who made a name for himself while with the Rangers for his international scouting, said it's very important for the team to have a presence in the region.

"I think it's an area where they play good baseball and people there really love the game," Preller said. "I think it's good for us to give back, share information and run programs that help grow the game.

"I think we had a great few days over there."

Could the Padres see the fruit of their work in Japan soon? They have added to their scouting presence in the Pacific Rim, utilizing four scouts there.

"I think we're prepared. We just want to be in a position if guys come out, that we are ready to make an informed decision," Preller said. "But it's an area our eyes are always on from a scouting standpoint."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.