One of the highlights of Japan’s postseason comes the day after Game 2 of the Japan Series, when five former pitchers get together to dismiss the accomplishments of today’s pro hurlers and ostensibly honor one as the recipient of the Eiji Sawamura Award.
“I know the game has changed, but dammit, so many of these guys are embarrassing,” one selector said. “I don’t mean to be rude but when I see pitchers leaving the mound with a lead with both limbs intact in the eighth inning and they’re not bleeding and they haven’t even thrown 200 pitches, I’m ashamed my grandkids know I was a pitcher, too.”
Another guy said, “It’s very important in today’s game to develop heroes that kids can look up to. What’s it say about ballplayers if they don’t want to endure injuries for the sake of their team?”
“Look. Most of us were done by the time we were 35, and none of us can throw hard at all any more, except Choji (Murata), and he had Tommy John surgery, so that’s kind of like cheating.”
The former pitchers said that in an era when pitch counts and pitch limits are beginning to corrupt even Japanese youth baseball, it was up to the old guys to hold the line.
“Baseball, at its heart is a blood sport. And kids need to learn that,” one said. “Pitchers need to practice year round in order to perfect their craft. That’s the Japanese way. I don’t think anyone doubts that.”
“If that practice means that some talented 7-year-olds need arm surgery or have to give up baseball before he gets to junior high school, that’s a small price to pay for upholding tradition.”