Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
from Left field:
The story goes that shortly after baseball great Babe Ruth had settled into the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo while touring Japan in 1934, there was a knock on the door. He opened it to see a Japanese man in a kimono. ''Sign baseball,'' the man said.
As soon as the Babe autographed that baseball, the man pulled another out of his kimono. Then another. And another. And another.
If Japanese media coverage of home-grown players plying their trade in the United States is anything to go by, Japan’s love affair with baseball is alive and well.
In 2001, Major League Baseball's decision to allow All-Star voting in Japan helped Ichiro Suzuki lead all players in voting for the All-Star Game. That same year, Ichiro won the American League Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year awards, becoming only the second player in MLB history (after Fred Lynn) to receive both honors in the same season.
The modernity as well as the occasional indifference to change in Japan bookmarked my week, with both moments anchored in the countryside about one hour from Tokyo.
On Monday in a rice field converted into a school parking lot, a 6-year-old, Boston Red Sox cap-wearing Japanese youngster stormed my way. We had chatted in the past, although our last conversation consisted of “Chase me!”
Ichiro Suzuki has reached 2,000 career hits in 1,402 MLB games — the second-fastest pace ever — while over his nine seasons in MLB the Seattle Mariners star has ended on base once in about every three trips to the plate, based on his career batting average.
Add in his 1,278 Japanese hits, in shorter seasons, and Ichiro at 36 is pointing his bat at very rare professional air, including 3,000 career MLB hits and — on a cumulative basis — Pete Rose’s record 4,256 hits. He already set the MLB season hit record with an amazing 262 in 2004 and will likely be the first player, in a matter of days, to ever record 200 hits in nine consecutive seasons.