Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Japan baseball still in little league?
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.
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