Just as baseball is popular in the United States, so it is in Japan. In fact, it has already started to turn towards becoming the premiere sport in the country, being by far, the one with the most fans in Japan.
Baseball was brought to Japan by Horace Wilson in 1872. Yakyu, is how baseball is known in Japan. In 1878, the first formal Japanese team was established. This team was called the Shimbashi Athletic Club formed by Hiroshi Hiraoka and his co-workers at Japan’s national railways.
In 1896, a team from the Tokyo University defeated an American team from the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club with a score of 29 to 4. That game was the first international baseball game in Asia. Since then, the sport has remained popular among the Japanese.
Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s highest level of professional baseball association, is the Japanese equivalent of the United States’ Major League Baseball (MLB). It also has 2 leagues, namely, the Pacific and the Central Leagues. The two leagues have 6 teams each.
Much like the Major League, only one of the two leagues use the designated hitter style of play, the Pacific League. Japan’s baseball season is eight months long. Unlike the Major League though, Nippon Professional Baseball teams get their names from the names of their owners and not where they are based. All Japanese teams are owned by corporations.
The rules of the Nippon League are the same as that of the Major League in the U.S. except that the former allows tied games. Likewise, some technical elements in Nippon Professional Baseball are different, i.e., the strike zone, baseball and field used are smaller than that of the Major League. Moreover, the Japanese baseball is harder and is wound tightly.
Five of the Nippon teams have undersized home playing fields. With regards to their strike zone, it is narrower inside than away from the batter. Foreign players are allowed but there can not be more than four per team.
Japan’s love for the sport of baseball must have been what led many Japanese players to try out for the Major Leagues in the United States. In fact, there are now a total of 37 Japanese players who have played Major League Baseball between 1964 and 2008. This number does not include players with American parents but who were born in Japan or players with Japanese blood but grew up in the U.S.
Although not the first, Hideo Nomo was a Japanese player that became very successful in his baseball career in the Major League. His success was said to have set a trend among Japanese players entering Major League Baseball. Other famous Japanese players in the MLB are Kosuke Fukudome, Hedeki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito and Kazuhiro Sasaki, among others.
To prove Japan’s competitive spirit in the field of baseball, just last month, in a game played over two continents, Japan emerged to become the champion of the World Baseball Classic. They fought Cuba in the finals with a score of 10-6 making them world champions in baseball. With this new title to further boost their love for the sport, expect to see more of them in the future.
By KeithJJ from Pixabay