Looking back on NPB 9 years later

In Las Vegas for the winter meetings on Sunday, I caught up with Paul Pupo, who spent six years as the head of analytics for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League under manager Bobby Valentine. Pupo, who lives in Las Vegas, talked about what the journey meant for his family.

“I always harken back to the fact that I was able to bring my wife back to her ancestral home in Yokohama,” Pupo said. “Because my wife was born in Nagoya and spent her childhood in Yokohama. My brother married her sister, and we all got together in Japan and it gathered our family together.”

“The second thing was to be able to share a world championship, what we called a world championship with Bobby, my best friend in Japan in 2005. The exhilaration of winning with Bobby — I’ve known him since 1968 — and to be able to share that with him was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

“I’ll never forget the feeling of winning a championship, which is really a short-lived experience for one day. You run around the infield and outfield. You’re a champion for one day, and then you have to defend it.”

Pupo, whose love of the game hasn’t diminished since he was a player at Gonzaga University, said that despite watching five or six MLB games a day, he still has time to follow NPB.

“I follow it all the time,” he said. “I still enjoy it. I feel a connection to it. I watched it the other day when I heard about the new left-handed pitcher coming over (Yusei Kikuchi). I watched him and the noise of the ballpark came back to me. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I forgot that it was that loud.”

Pupo talked about the players, he remembered, and one seemed to stand out more than anyone, former Seibu Lions and Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kazuhiro Wada.

“I used to watch that guy swing, I loved his swing. It was unreal what he could do,” Pupo said.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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