The MLB Is Turning Japanese – They Really Think So
This week 29 MLB players are in Japan to take on a national team in a slate of five games in the Japan All-Star Series. Never heard of it before? That's okay, the every-two-year series has been on hiatus since 2006 (thanks, Obama). But like the "Robocop" remake, it's back whether we wanted it or not, and it sheds a light on how Japanese baseball is just a touch different from its US counterpart.
This year's MLB team includes Yasiel Puig, Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria, and Japanese pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada. They will take on the Samurai Japan team, which includes WBC players Nobuhiro Matsuda, Sho Nakata, Hayato Sakamoto and Seiichi Uchikawa (you remember those guys, right?). It also includes future Yankee (wait, did I say that out loud?) RHP Kenta Maeda, who in Game 1 held the MLB players scoreless in five innings (ca-ching!).
The games use a DH, invoke a pitch limit, and use a post-10th inning tiebreaker, putting runners and first and second to start the inning, although the game is declared a tie if they reach the 13th inning. Besides that, it looks like real baseball (did you feel that zinger, American Leagues?). With the shutout, Japan leads the series 1-0.
The games are being played in Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, with the above crowd in Osaka's Koshien stadium participating in some kind of seventh inning fertility ritual. MLB all star teams have toured Japan since 1908, and ever since, the sport has had a hold on the country.
Or put another way, the Japanese are likely more excited about the series than American fans are. However, Maeda's impending posting to MLB will affect both countries' leagues, and will hopefully shed a light on this international series.
That's my favorite picture from the 100+ year series' history: Hawaiian born sumo champion Konishiki throwing out the first pitch in 1998. You have to think even the Fielder family said, "Damn, Man, try a salad!" The most amazing thing about this picture is that the guy known as the "Dump Truck" is still alive and 50 years old (after successful gastric bypass surgery he has gone from 633 pounds to a svelte 480).
Hey, if he can survive, perhaps the Japan series can as well. Game 2 is on Friday, and the series can be seen on MLB.TV. Check it out.
Photos via MLB and Getty
David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and Sports Illustrated and is now one for SportsGrid.com. Follow him on Twitter @turkeysflying.
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