Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star newspaper is in Japan covering the Japan Series (on account of Nippon Ham Fighters coach Trey Hillman going to the KC Royals in 2008.)
Why am I here? It’s a good question, one that at least 20 Japanese reporters have already asked me (this before asking me, “What have you eaten so far?” and “Where is Kansas City?” and, oddly, “How old are you?”).
I’m here, mostly, because new Royals manager Trey Hillman is here. He is trying to become the first foreign-born manager ever to win back-to-back Japan Series, the Japanese equivalent of the World Series. This trip seems like a good way to find out about the man charged with changing the Royals’ fortunes.
But there’s something more. I’m here to see this world. The last few years, we all have watched some terrific Japanese players come into our American game — Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka, to name just three — and yet most of us know so little about their game. It’s virtually hidden.
Japanese baseball isn’t easily available on American television. You have to be a computer hacker to find out anything about it on the Internet. To see it up close, you have to deal with a 14-hour flight, extreme jet lag and a language barrier.
And yet, that’s what Hillman kept saying. “You have to see it to believe it.”
Saturday night, Hillman’s Fighters played the Chunichi Dragons in game one of the best-of-seven Japan Series. More than 42,000 people packed into the Sapporo Dome for one of the greatest pitching duels in Japan Series history. The fans sang and chanted and drank heavily and did the “YMCA” and smacked noisemakers together. And the ending of the game was like something out of a movie. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
“Quite a scene, isn’t it?” asked Dave Owen, a good old Texan (and briefly a Royals player in 1988) who came over to Japan to coach for his friend Hillman. “People back home should know about this.”
They love Hillman in Japan (Oct. 29)
It’s great to see Posnanski’s perspective of Japan as he compares and contrasts American and Japanese baseball. It’s also interesting to see American mass media cover Japanese sports when the Japanese mass media is going ga-ga over the US World Series (due to 3 Japanese being in the finals.)