I am truly intrigued by Japanese baseball.
In Japan the game is highly revered. It is the nation's most popular sport.
Americans introduced baseball to Japan in the 1870's.
The Japanese take their baseball seriously. Japan has won both World Baseball Classics and it has produced a few of MLB's best players - think Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
There is a vast cultural divide between the United States and Japan when it comes to the game of baseball.
I remember watching an interview with current Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine, who managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League for several years. Valentine was working for ESPN when he and Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman began commenting on how disgusting a major league dugout looks in the late innings of a game - sunflower seeds, gum wrappers and spilled drinks littering the dugout. Valentine commented that Japanese dugouts remain pristine throughout the course of a game!
Another huge difference is the manner in which the game is played. In America the fans dig the long ball. It's all about offensive output. In Japan they play 'small ball.' Defense is the first priority.
The Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners are currently in Japan and, this week, will play exhibition games against the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers.
Here's a little description from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Japanese baseballs are slightly smaller and harder than major-league baseballs; in the exhibition games, the Yomiuri and Hanshin pitchers will throw Mizuno-made Japanese balls, and the A's pitchers will throw standard Rawlings baseballs.
The exhibition games against Japanese teams are eye-openers for American players. The Japanese clubs warm up quite a bit differently - they use two batting cages at once, doubling the action on the field. Fans sing team songs during the game and wave flags, and they are a positive bunch. You won't hear heckling or booing from a Japanese crowd.
Beer is sold in the crowd by young women with small kegs strapped to their backs, and sake is available in cans at the stadium...
Back in 1934 Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and other major leaguers visited Japan as part of a goodwill team that played against an All-Japan team made up primarily of Tokyo Six University League Team players. The American team was managed by Connie Mack the American team won all 18 games of the series...
The evolution of Japanese baseball has progressed quite nicely.
Yomiuri Giants mascot Giabbit with the Oakland A's Stomper...
Hot Baseball Wife Hall of Famer Amanda McCarthy signing in Japan...