Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Japan baseball still in little league?

July 8, 2009

BASEBALL/JAPANI like going to watch baseball games, not just for the refreshments but also the great team-play on the field.

In Japan, you cannot win just with one or two stars, needing a team solid in both defence and offence.

Many Japanese share this feeling and that’s why the imported sport of baseball has become our No.1 sport.

Every night TV sports starts with results from professional baseball games, while tabloid newspapers’ top stories focus on the national pastime.

Yet most Japanese pro baseball teams are not making a profit. They pay a lot of money to rent stadiums, but at the same time have never really focused on profitability as corporate owners cover losses.

That might not matter immediately to fans, but the weak financial heath of teams contributes to why Japanese players leave for Major League Baseball,  as teams can afford to pay, relatively, amazing salaries.

As a fan, I would like to believe in the potential of Japan’s baseball business, but the two big leagues only started taking it seriously a few years ago.

Until 2005, teams did not count the actual number of tickets sold, guessing attendance by looking at the stands.BASEBALL/JAPAN

The 75-year old Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s equivalent to the New York Yankees, only created a fan service section four years ago, while they only began Sunday day games last year.

The Giants took it for granted that baseball games should be played at night, but even this minor change attracted more families and boosted attendance by 2,000 people, Yomiuri Giants President Tsunekazu Momoi told me.

Many teams are lowering protective netting at stadiums to allow fans closer access and visibility to the field, another sign that fans — and their wallets — matter.

Some, like Masumi Kuwata, a former pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, recognize that more specialization is needed, studying sports management at Japan’s Waseda University.

Kuwata may not be the only one poring over the books, trying to make Japanese baseball a richer sport.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Comments

Jay Zazzera 15 years old from Exton, PA USA who was invited to play with the Yokohama Japan team did such a great job as designated hitter. Hitting 3 home runs about 370-380 feet and two singles against much older players was asked return back next summer. The young player was invited by the coach after watching him on teams USA 14 year old team last summer where his son was playing.
For more information on this USA player contact George at USSA Baseball.

 

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