Tsuyoshi Shinjo fulfilled one of his social media wishes by publishing video from his smart phone during pregame practice on Sunday from the manager’s office and the Sapporo Dome bullpen, places typical fans never get to see, ToSpo Web reported.
The idea that a manager would reveal his home park’s inner spaces is pretty off the wall in Japan, where clubhouses and most team spaces are with few exceptions, off-limits even to the media.
The most extreme case is Tokyo Dome’s “Iron Curtain,” which I’ll get to presently.
Over 20,000 people viewed Shinjo’s private tour of the dome, including his indicating the route he took as a player that one time he made his arrival on the field by descending from the park’s ceiling.
“I think it’s ok to do it once in a while, although I suspect the team is going to be angry,” he said. “I asked the team if I could shoot the team dining room, and they people might want to see it. I didn’t really know what I could show and what I couldn’t.”
“I can’t get in the way of the players practicing, but I would have liked to talk to about 10 players.”
The first thinig this made me think of was the Iron Curtain, a barrier put up to prevent the media from transiting the corridor that runs between the Giants clubhouse and dugout and the home team bullpen before games.
In the day before teams announced their starting pitchers, “Who’s starting” was a popular game, and teams would at times go to great and often stupid lengths to disguise the identity of their starting pitcher.
In one Climax Series, I believe it was 2007, Tatsunori Hara’s Yomiuri Giants were confounded at home by Hiromitsu Ochiai’s Chunichi Dragons couldn’t predict.
Since he was a player, Ochiai has played his cards close to his vest. As a manager, this meant lying to the media about his plans. Hara, meanwhile, had already established a reputation as the Japanese manager most likely to dream he was a secret agent protecting government secrets.
Unlike the dome’s home bullpen, which is separated from the clubhouse by a corridor the media takes to go to the field before the game, Tokyo Dome’s visitors bullpen is located where the media can easily be stopped from seeing who comes and goes by simply closing a door.
Realizing this, and having been outsmarted, Hara and the Giants erected a pair of steel barriers that could be retracted after the game, but before the game would allow the team to keep the identity of who was and wasn’t going to the bullpen a secret before the game.
With that in mind, I absolutely love what Shinjo is doing. It is directly opposed to Japanese baseball’s anal-retentive “I’ve got a secret” mentality.
Editors note: I originally thought 2012 was the year the iron curtain was installed, but I’m informed by my tremendous colleague Jason Coskrey that it was 2007. But that jibes with my recollection. I was in Sapporo covering the Marines-Fighters series and moved to Tokyo after that one ended, only to be told the story by the late great Wayne Graczyk.