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Flamboyant Japanese baseball manager ups ante on hover-bike

Newly appointed Fighters manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo enters the Sapporo Dome on a hover-bike. ©AFP

Tokyo (AFP) - His extravagant outfits and jaw-dropping stunts are headline news in Japan, but now larger-than-life baseball manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo has upped the theatrical ante by entering the stadium on a hover-bike.

Shinjo, a flamboyant 50-year-old who calls himself Big Boss, stunned the crowd on Tuesday when he appeared for his team the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' first home game of the season on a futuristic black vehicle.

He took off and soared high above the field at the Sapporo Dome before landing about a minute later, then whipped off his helmet and red jacket before striding off.

Shinjo, a former player who had stints in Major League Baseball, was appointed Fighters manager ahead of the new season despite having no coaching experience.

His charismatic persona and spectacular stunts have brought the three-time Japanese champions huge attention, and his latest antics made another splash.

"If the Tokyo Olympics had had the Big Boss at the opening ceremony, it would have been a big hit," wrote one Twitter user.

Shinjo -- who has officially registered his name with baseball authorities as Big Boss -- emerged from a box covered in flashing lights when he came out for his team's opening game last weekend.

With his gleaming white teeth and dyed hair, he has more of the look of a TV personality than baseball manager.

He turned up for his first press conference wearing an outlandishly large shirt collar, and arrives at club events in expensive sports cars.

His team have not been quite so spectacular on the field, however, losing their first four games of the season.

"If you don't spend time thinking about how to win baseball games rather than getting ready for flashy performances, you'll get dragged down into the quagmire," one Twitter user wrote after Tuesday's game, a 4-0 loss.

"Enough performances -- get results," wrote another.

The Fighters have been one of Japan's most successful clubs in recent years, winning the Japan Series in 2006 and 2016 and producing stars such as Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels.

Shinjo played for the Fighters from 2004 to 2006, after stints in MLB with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.

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