The Nippon Professional Baseball Organization’s (NBP) opening season kicked off in Tokyo with great fanfare and celebration. The inaugural event began by taking nominations for the 2013 Georgia Award, given to Japan’s favorite player of the year. Though the tally won’t be final until the close of the season, namesake sponsor canned-coffee company Georgia Coffee hosted opening ceremonies to signify the start of the voting process.

The Georgia Award selection committee

Georgia Award committee members gathered for the event, which turned into a lively talk show about the World Championship and this year’s professional baseball. Though at the time the season opening was still a day away, participants made their personal ranking predictions for the whole year!

Surprisingly, all six members of the committee predicted that the top teams in each league would be the Yomiuri Giants for the Central League and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for the Pacific League. (Incidentally, the predictions of last year’s committee members were all incorrect…)

Afterward, retired professional baseball player and committee member Hisashi Yamada shouted out, “There were many soulful plays in this past World Championship – let’s hope for more soulful and beautiful baseball plays starting tomorrow!”

Georgia Award committee member

For the Georgia Award, the selection committee narrowed the field of finalists to six players who all participated in targeted games during a two-week nomination period. Fans can vote for any of their six favorites in person at Georgia Baseball Park (a pro baseball aggregation site) or for the first time online through Facebook.

Fans who vote via Georgia Baseball Park are entered into a luxury prize drawing. And at the end of the season, the player with the most votes will become the official Georgia Award winner.