Tag Archives: Hideki Kuriyama

A bright future and the dark side

The recent WBC victory was a powerful moment, proving, not that Japan’s baseball is the best in the world, but that Japanese stars can be competitive with the world’s other best players.

All during the tournament, manager Hideki Kuriyama, Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish all expressed hope a WBC championship would energize Japanese baseball from top to bottom, and increase interest among children to take up the game and invigorate it.

But it’s going to take more than just increased participation to make it better. Although his team provided the ideal of a shining baseball city on a hill — or mound if you prefer, the reality is that the sport’s ideological and structural foundation represents some of baseball at its worst.

Pro baseball is just the tip of Japan’s iceberg. It is supported by a vast network of amateur establishments that provide the pros with players and shape the way those players learn, develop and physically mature.

And though changes have been made by federations to try and make youth baseball less dangerous to the health of Japanese youngsters’ arms, the underlying structure will have to change in order to unleash Japan’s true potential.

At the youth level, Japanese baseball requires a massive commitment not just from the young players themselves but from their parents, who are expected to support the team in various ways—including serving the coaches tea–something not every family has time for.

Once kids take part in school teams, they enter year-round “bukatsu” or club activity baseball, with daily running and practice over the entire year, because that’s how Japan’s educational system rolls and there’s no getting around it. Because the school year has no season when student athletes are allowed to step away from their club sport or compete in another it’s a mental and physical grind.

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Opening Day 2023, part 1

Masahiro Tanaka had a kind of happy homecoming when he helped celebrate the Nippon Ham Fighters’ new stadium on Thursday, when NPB opened its season with just one game. Nippon Professional Baseball’s other 10 teams will open their seasons Friday.

Eagles 3, Fighters 1, at Kitahiroshima Taxpayers’ Burden Park: Tanaka, who became a celebrity high school pitching ace nearby, retired the first 13 batters he faced before allowing one run on two hits, two walks and a hit batsman to win the first game played at the new stadium in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, which borders the Fighters’ former home of Sapporo, where they were less-than-satisfied tenants at Sapporo Dome from 2004 to 2022.

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Continue reading Opening Day 2023, part 1