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Articles Tagged Nippon Professional Baseball 

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July 17, 2007 12:00 am

Nippon Prospectus

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Mike Plugh

A highly-heralded Japanese import could come to America for 2008. What kind of player is he?

Perhaps the most anticipated free agent of the 2007 class is Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome (Koh-skay * foo-koo-DOH-may). What's his background? What kind of player is he? What has he accomplished in his Japanese career?

My enduring image of Kosuke Fukudome comes from a pivotal moment in the inaugural World Baseball Classic--a moment perhaps more responsible for Japan's championship than any other in the course of the tournament. Having lost to rival Korea by one run in each of its two previous encounters in the tournament, Japan found itself in another low-scoring pitcher's duel. Koji Uehara and Jae Seo had put zeroes on the board late into the contest, when Japan managed to put a runner on to lead off the 7th against reliever Byung Doo Jun. Byung-Hyun Kim was brought into the game to face Fukudome, who was pinch-hitting. The Chunichi center fielder had struggled in the WBC, and was on the bench for this semi-final contest with Korea. Showing a flair for the big moment, and adding to the embarrassing career lowlight reel of Kim, Fukudome launched a two-run homer into the right field stands to break the scoreless tie and open the floodgates for Japan; they would score a total of five runs in that inning, and go on to win the game 6-0.

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April 19, 2007 12:00 am

The Foreigners

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Mike Plugh

Which foreign-born ballplayers in the Japanese leagues should you know something about?

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April 10, 2007 12:00 am

Impact Talent in Japan

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Mike Plugh

A review of who might come to the States as free agents, through the posting system, and names you just want to know.

Why the sudden interest in who's next? It wasn't all that many years ago that people scoffed at the idea of a Japanese player making an impact in the major leagues. There were a lot of reasons given for the lack of interest, but I believe the lack of high-profile Asian athletes on the American sports scene perpetuated some old ideas about the size, strength, and durability of East Asian players. Misconceptions remain until someone gives us a reason to change our minds.

In the year 2000 I was living and working in New York. That was when the name "Ichiro" began to make the rounds, as the Orix Blue Wave was getting ready to send the outfielder to the Mariners. Many people I spoke with at the time rolled their eyes at the move. The big money the M's were spending on a little slap hitter from Japan was widely questioned. I vividly recall my shock at the rationale behind these journalists' opinions. "Japanese players are too small, lack power, and won't stand up to the grueling Major League routine. Major Leaguers are much bigger, stronger, and likely to dominate the average Japanese position player. They don't throw as hard as we do. The parks are smaller. How can we expect to believe in the quality of Japanese baseball when minor league wash outs go over there and succeed?"

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March 20, 2007 12:00 am

Live From Akita City

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Mike Plugh

Mike takes the plunge with the six team Pacific League division, spotlighting outstanding talent across Japan.

In the peaceful light
Of the ever-shining sun
In the days of spring,
Why do the cherry's new-blown blooms
Scatter like restless thoughts?

-- Ki no Tomonori (9th century poet)





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March 13, 2007 12:00 am

Live From Akita City

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Mike Plugh

Mike shares his perspective on the roots of Japanese baseball, and readies you for a season preview.

The top high school teams occasionally achieve an even greater level of dedication than the pros, and are therefore among the most celebrated heroes of the nation. The Koshien High School Summer Baseball Tournament is the be-all and end-all of athletics in Japan, and young boys everywhere dream of leaving their blood out on the hallowed grounds of that stadium or taking home a bag full of its dirt as a symbol of their victory.

On his tour of Fenway, Matsuzaka bowed as he entered and exited, much to the surprise of the American media. In his 1989 book You Gotta Have Wa, Robert Whiting gives us an anecdote from 1891 about a popular English teacher named Robert Imbrie--he was beaten by students of Ichiko High School for climbing their wall to enter the field after arriving late to the start of a game. Their field was their "dojo," and not a place for such a disrespectful act. This is serious business.

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