Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Welcome to Baseball Japan

Welcome to Baseball Japan.

Recently, I’ve found myself increasingly engaged in writing about baseball in Japan. During the summer of 2004, awaiting my move to Japan, I had a notion that Japanese baseball would be an important part of my life in the East. I frequently imagined the various aspects of baseball that draw America and Japan together. At the same time, I recognized the enormous gap that exists between the brands of baseball that are played on opposite sides of the world, and it intrigued me to explore all of these various similarities and differences.

As a dedicated New York Yankees fan, I have been blessed with the comfort of watching my favorite club’s games on NHK thanks to the presence of Hideki Matsui. I have also been treated to a nice cross-section of Mariners, White Sox, Mets, and Cardinals games with the ever-increasing profile of Japanese players in the Major Leagues. My connection to the US and to Major League Baseball has gone largely unbroken thanks to this cross-cultural exchange of talent. Hearing and reading the Japanese point of view on these players’ accomplishments, struggles, and personal lives has helped me to expand my mind and observe the sport from a much more wide angle perspective.

More than the Major League angle, I have seen Japan’s love affair with baseball from the root level all the way to the domestic professional ranks. I have watched Junior High School students riding their bicycles in the snow, already in full uniform, as they head to practice. It’s a year round phenomenon that is as much about building character, collective goals, and group harmony as it is about ground balls and batting practice. Following local youth teams has been a rewarding experience, as the universal love of the game translates without words. A glove is a glove. A ball is white and red. A bat is narrow at one end and thick at the other. It’s a different style of game, but it’s still baseball.

Blogging has been a pleasant and fulfilling enterprise in my time here. Japan has so much to offer from a cultural standpoint. Immersion in the language and customs changes a person forever, and gives greater meaning to the identity we assign ourselves. At the same time, the core of our being must shine through and remain connected to its roots. Baseball has always been that for me, and blogging has allowed the essence of my character to remain firm, even as it is reshaped by my daily experiences in a foreign land. Canyon of Heroes, a Yankees blog, is my labor of love. It helps me to keep the New York in the man, although the man is out of New York. A good community of readers and fellow Yankees bloggers have built that project into a strong outlet.

From time to time, I have found myself contributing my work on Japanese baseball to COH, and in turn to the outstanding and ecclectic site Japundit. Player profiles, recaps of the World Baseball Classic, impressions of the Japanese game, and the like, have filled in the blanks where my Yankees commentary has left room. My intense appreciation for Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka led to the creation of a spin-off blog called Matsuzaka Watch. That project has become a tool for scouting and informing fans of the game outside of Japan about the remarkable talent that will likely join the Major League ranks in 2007. A second project called Darvish Watch is a similar campaign to inform fans of baseball about a gifted young player with a unique background. More of such specialized blogging is certainly in my future plans, but something dawned on me as I contemplated this variety of work.

There’s so much to say about Japanese baseball that Western people don’t know. Certainly there are other excellent sites dedicated to Japan’s pursuit of the game, and many books which have enlightened us and shared the wit and wonder that our own brand of baseball has provided over the last 100+ years. Those are still the foundation of everything I do here. I will do my best to draw attention to the people, publications, and media that talks about Japanese baseball in greater detail. My aim is not to replicate what they have done so well already. It occurs to me that the great wealth of information that has been provided through those outlets is strong for its breadth. What a good blog can do is add meat, or depth, to that archive.

I find myself wanting to explore a particular player in more detail, or relate an interesting story that I happened upon. Scouting potential Major Leaguers, or toasting the accomplishments of young Japanese players is another important goal. There are angles to be explored, and gaps to be filled. I can’t manage all of them, but I hope the stories I post here will increase the understanding and appreciation of the players from Japan. I hope this will be one of many gateways for Japanese-Western cultural exchange. To that end, please participate in this project by coming back often. Spread the word. Build the following with me. Perhaps you’ll learn something about a player that is coming to a Major League team near you. Perhaps you’ll find an interesting story that amuses or intrigues you. For sure, the other sources of knowledge about the Japanese passion for baseball will be introduced to you here if you pay attention. In the end, there will be something for everyone who loves the sport of baseball.

Thanks for stopping by and supporting me.
Mike Plugh


At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a fellow Yanks fan, I've greatly enjoyed CofH and your very apt posts on Japundit. Please keep up the good work. Let's hope to see Daisuke Matsuzaka in pinstripes next year -- and Yu Darvish working his way toward pinstripes in the minors.
Japanese players have certainly made an impact in MLB the past few seasons, and it's great especially to see Kaz Matsui finally playing close to his ability in Colorado.
Now, if the Yanks could just trade A-Rod for Joe Crede...
All the best,


Post a Comment

<< Home