Tag Archives: Yoshinobu Yamamoto

What is going on in Japan?

This is the text of a speech I gave in March to the Japan American Society of Chicago, entitled: “What Japanese Baseball Brings to the World.”

Last winter’s record MLB contracts to Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have brought fans of America’s two major leagues into contact with the idea that Japan’s two major leagues can produce some of the best baseball players in the world.

Although this is not a new idea, Ohtani’s $700 million deal, the most valuable contract in the history of team sports, and Yamamoto’s $325 million, the most valuable ever given to a pitcher, have validated the talk of Japanese players’ prowess in ways that even the World Baseball Classic and scouting reports haven’t.

In the language Americans understand, that of concrete dollars and cents, these contracts have spelled out how valuable players coming out of a radically different pro baseball context can be, and force people to ask, “what the heck is going on over there?”

That difference between Japan’s and America’s baseball worlds and the value it creates for baseball around the world is the focus of today’s talk, because if Japanese baseball did not exist, or if the relationship between MLB and Japan were different, there would be no Shohei Ohtani in the sense that we know him now as perhaps the best human to ever play the game.

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Seouled out

SEOUL — After two days of my being completely lost in Seoul starting on Monday, I had figured enough things out to make me sad to leave Friday.

Hwang Dong Un outside Gocheok Sky Dome. Courtesy of Hwang Dong Un.

I couldn’t figure out the rail system on the first day after arriving from the airport, but was lucky enough to catch a ride to the ballpark with Blake, photographer from Dodger Blue, who had called an Uber.

Since Task 1 was doing a story based on what fans were saying, I met a Seoul-based Korean colleague from my day job, I was able to hear from Korean fans outside the ballpark about their overwhelming admiration for Shohei Ohtani and some other MLB stars, especially San Diego Padres shortstop–and former Kiwoom Hero– Kim Ha Seong.

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