History

Phillies Phlashback: The time Ryan Howard dominated in Japan


Ryan Howard is one of the most dominant players in Phillies history. (Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon Sportswire)

If you were lucky enough to be at a Philadelphia Phillies game in 2006, perhaps you happened to see Ryan Howard, en route to winning the National League MVP, hit one of his franchise record 58 home runs.

After the season, the Ryan Howard show went on the road. And the results remained largely the same.

Howard and Chase Utley were part of the MLB All-Stars roster that went to Japan shortly after the World Series concluded to take part in the MLB-Japan All-Star Series. The team of MLB All-Stars, managed by Bruce Bochy, took on an All-Star team from Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s top baseball league.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye led the MLB All-Stars to a Game 1 victory in the five-game exhibition series. Howard put on a clinic at the Tokyo Dome in the second game of the series.

In Howard’s first at-bat of Game 2, he used his signature opposite-field power to get the MLB All-Stars on the board:

In his next at-bat, Howard hit one of the most no-doubt-about-it home runs that you’ll ever see:

The MLB All-Stars would win Game 2 of the series 8-6, the second of five wins they would produce during the series. Howard would go on to homer for a third time in Game 4 of the series, before plating typical National League East foes Jose Reyes and Andruw Jones with a two-run double in Game 5 of the series. At the conclusion of the series, Howard was named MVP.

The MLB-Japan All-Star Series was a bi-yearly event from 1986-2006, but didn’t take place in 2008, 2010 or 2012, when it’s likely a host of Phillies would have been involved.

In 2014, the event was rebooted, with Japan winning three of five games. No current Phillies were on that team, but Erik Kratz had already played for the Phillies and would return for brief second stint in 2015. Future Phillies Carlos Santana and Tommy Hunter were also on the team.

The event took place again in 2018, with Japan winning five of six games played. The aforementioned Santana and Rhys Hoskins were the Phillies representatives, but Santana would be traded by the Phillies to the Seattle Mariners shortly after the event concluded. Meanwhile, J.T. Realmuto wore a Miami Marlins jersey during the series, but had played his final regular season game with the team, as he was traded to the Phillies a few months later.

It’s likely that the World Baseball Classic, which began in 2006, took some of the juice out of the MLB-Japan All-Star Series. But you can’t bet that there are still quite a few Japanese baseball fans that own Ryan Howard jerseys after becoming enamored with his power at the 2006 event.

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