How a Brummie got into Baseball

Birmingham, England

Black Sabbath, the spaghetti junction, HP Sauce, a balti and naan, a 13 year old mother pushing her baby around in a pram while chuffing on a Benson and Hedges – these are some things that spring to mind when one thinks of England’s second city, Birmingham.

Baseball is absolutely not one of those things, given that baseball is not played in the U.K. Bring up the topic of baseball in Brum and you’ll most probably get the response – “What? You mean that gay rounders?”, with rounders being the English forerunner of baseball, still played in some schools in England today. In fact, when I left the city of Birmingham in early 2001, bound for a Japanese adventure, I too knew absolutely nothing about the sport of baseball, and little did I know how much that would change over the coming years.

Rounders

Before leaving England, I was, and indeed still am, an avid follower of football (or soccer for my American chums). I like to follow a team, it makes life more interesting. It’s like a soundtrack to your life, following the highs and lows of your chosen team. It has a yearly cycle: hopes and dreams at the beginning of the year, usually shattered as the season progresses, until the season ends and the slate is wiped clean for the new year, whereupon the hopes and dreams start again and the cycle continues, for life. I guess it helps distract from some of the more harsh realities of one’s own life, kind of (I guess) like a form of religion, only for the more intelligent and free-thinking individual (though the intelligent part is highly debatable in some cases…..).

Being from Birmingham, my team of choice is Aston Villa, and has been for quite some time. For those who don’t know, Aston Villa are one of England’s most storied and successful football teams, even if their successes are more historical in nature (i.e. their last League Championship was back in the early 1980s and the bulk of their silverware came pre-WW1!).

So when I arrived in Japan, I had to search for a local Aston Villa substitute. A team that I could follow day in day out, a team whose games I could view live and in person and not just by means of satellite TV. And not just that, a team that felt natural for me to support. So naturally, being a football fan, I first turned to J-League soccer. But I tried a few games and all it did was make me yearn for the football of home, plus the fans in Japanese soccer stadiums seemed to create an atmosphere that was a strange, slightly unreal facsimile of a European football crowd. Nothing about it attracted me to spend my time and money following this brand of football.

So I decided I’d give this strange uniformed version of rounders a go. At first one of the factors that appealed to me was the fact that baseball was very much Japan’s traditional team sport in the way that soccer was not. It has a long history and foothold in the culture of the nation, in a similar way to that of football in the UK.

So I started to watch some games on TV. Of course, the only games I could really watch on regular TV were the Yomiuri Giants games (as they were/are the only team whose games were/are nationally aired), but at that point I didn’t really have any idea of who they were. So I started to watch games on the telly, pretty much oblivious of which teams I was watching. The first major problem I encountered was that I simply didn’t have any idea of the rules, apart from the “need to be on a base or you’re out” thing, and the concept of scoring runs, both learned from playing rounders at school.

Cricket

The major thing that stumped me at first was the concepts of balls and strikes. It may sound strange but that was one of the biggest things to get my head around. This difficulty comes from exposure to the game of cricket which is popular in England (and other commonwealth countries). In cricket, the pitcher (known as a bowler) tries to knockover three wooden stumps or “wickets” that stand directly behind the batter. If he hits the wickets then that batter is out. Any ball that is too far away from the batter is called a “wide” and is penalized to the tune of one run. So bowlers are always trying to pitch as accurately as possible so that they can hit the wickets. So the fact that when watching a baseball game, I would see so many balls being pitched out of the strike zone puzzled me to no end. How could these presumably highly paid pitchers, whose only real job was to throw strikes, throw so many non-strikes? It took me quite a while to understand the ins and outs of pitching in baseball, of trying to get the batter to swing at something not in, or at the edge of the strike zone. That concept took a long time to grasp.

But I soon got to grips with the generalities of the rules. So next I had to choose a team to follow. One day I was watching a game on TV, of course it was the Yomiuri Giants again, but the other team I hadn’t seen before, nor the stadium that they were playing in. I remember noticing the dinky nature of the park, and the big retro looking scoreboard behind centrefield. I noticed this other team, who appeared to be the home team, playing in a white uniform with redpinstripes. Their caps were navy blue, with a large YS on the front of it. At the time I couldn’t read a lick of Japanese, so I couldn’t figure what this team was called. The onscreen scorebox abbreviated their name as “ヤ” but that meant nothing to me, apart from resembling a scythe. But they couldn’t be called the Scythes though, surely? For some reason I didn’t twig that the team name was written in big letters across the uniform’s jersey, or possibly couldn’t make it out due to the funky font. So I presumed they were called the Ys (pron.”wise”).

So this “Ys” team were presumably at home, as this wasn’t the Tokyo Dome, but by the looks and sounds of it, their fans were greatly outnumbered by fans of the Giants, so much so that they might as well have been the away team. This appealed to me right away, as I (like many British folk) have a love of the underdog, and the most popular football teams in England, such as Manchester United, often fill up opposing grounds with their own glory-supporting fans, outnumbering fans of the home team, and boy do I hate teams like that.

I continued to watch the game between these two teams on the TV, transfixed by this apparent David and Goliath battle. In the end the Ys prevailed, I don’t recall the score. But what I do recall is how overjoyed the players were with the victory, how silent three quarters of the stadium seemed to be, and indeed that the commentators didn’t sound so happy about the result either, and that I thought it must have been raining due to the fact that a lot of fans were holding umbrellas……

I then tried to do a bit of research on the teams to find out who these mysterious Ys were. After talking to a few friends, it seemed like they were the Yakult Swallows, based in Tokyo. The “ヤ” stood for “Ya” of ヤクルト/Yakult. So I bought a Wayne Graczyk English Language media guide to the 2001 season from a local book store, and found out more about these Swallows. I discovered that they played their games at the Meiji Jingu Stadium. That the guy with glasses who seemed to be their most popular player was called Atsuya Furuta. And that their pock-mark faced member with tree trunks for arms was Venezuelan Roberto Petagine, and the other foreign bearded guy seemed to be a certain Alex Ramirez.

So I found an upcoming game at Jingu, versus the Chunichi Dragons, and went along with a couple of friends. We found our way to Sendagaya station, and walked past the Olympic stadium to the comparatively tiny Meiji Jingu Stadium nice and early for my first ever game of baseball. We took our seats in the leftfield bleachers, as they looked less busy than the rightfield ones, sat down and bought beer. As time got nearer to game time, we noticed that our position was slowly being surrounded by blue clad Dragons fans. A little strange we thought as we continued to sup our beers.

Atsuya Furuta

As the game began, and the Swallows got on the scoreboard, I jumped up in celebration and wondered why no one else did around me, and indeed, were now all staring at me. It was then that we looked over to the fans in the rightfield stands, who were all dancing with what appeared to be green umbrellas, the same as I’d seen on the TV that game against the Giants. We were in the wrong section. I knew nothing of the Japanese baseball tradition of home supporters in the rightfield stands and away in the left, similar to the home and away sections of football stadiums in the UK. But by that time, we figured that it was too late to change seats, so we vowed to try to be respectful of the Dragons fans if Yakult scored again and not cheer too much. However, as the beers flowed, poured by young girls with beer-kegs strapped to their backs, this became more difficult to do in practice. The game finished an 8-8 tie, the highlight of which was an Alex Ramirez grand slam. The grand slam was difficult to restrain myself for, so I started dancing around cheering like a drunken buffoon, and found myself joined by an equally drunk Japanese fellow who started to hug me. It turns out that he was here with his friend who was a Chunichi fan, but he wasn’t a fan of any team in particular. But what he was was an “Anti-Giant” or hater of the Giants, and as Yakult was shaping up to be Yomiuri’s main contender for the pennant that year, he was happy to celebrate the home run with me, and indeed buy me more beers!

And so that was the beginning. After that I started to go regularly to games if I could find anyone to drag along (one of whom was a certain Mr.Pellegrini…), this time sitting in the right place of course, complete with umbrella in hand!

Now, I love the rightfield stands at Jingu. It’s one of my favourite places to be in the world. Friendly people, alcohol aplenty, umbrella dances and of course the Tokyo Ondo, which never fails to freak out/delight (delete as appropriate) new visitors to Jingu’s bleachers (see video below). I love Jingu’s relaxed atmosphere along with the passion the fans show for their team. I love the uniforms, especially the navy blue and red road one (which has unfortunately been retired for 2009). I love almost every one of the players I’ve seen don that uniform over the years, from Atsuya Furuta, Satoshi Iriki, Shugo Fuji, Akinori Iwamura, Shinya Miyamoto……there are so many. I love the fact that nobody really likes us, that the response of the average Japanese when they find out you’re a Swallows fan is to ask…”Why?!??”. I love the fact that the team has survived in the NPB in the same city as the omni-present Giants for decades, and has not just survived but given a bloody nose to the all-powerful Yomiuri on many an occasion, and been successful despite the odds.

Now several years on, and what must be hundreds of games watched later, I am as much a baseball fan as I am a football fan. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows mean (almost) as much to me as Aston Villa do. But the game of baseball I love is yakyu, simply because my baseball education was in Japan and everything I’ve learned has been learned watching yakyu. It is a love that is unclouded by a prior history with the sport, and by prolonged exposure to another way of doing things. I love the history, the teams, and the deep sense of pride the players and fans alike have in them.

So for as long as I remain in Japan, my outlook on life will be affected by how my Swallows perform, they have become my team. Though there are good seasons and bad (and indeed more of the latter with Yakult), I wouldn’t change them for another team. Not for all the beer girls in Japan.

Tokyo Ondo

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Here here!

  • Kutabare Yomiuri!

  • James

    David! Good man! A friend of mine who knows I am a big Swallows fan sent me a link to your page, and it was like reading something I could have written myself!! (Apart from being a Liverpool fan as opposed to Villa but there you go).

    My story is almost identical to yours, but my first exposure to Swallows came as a result of trying to buy tickets for Giants and it being sold out. I had a friend in town and we decided to go watch some baseball just as something “different” to do. As a predicted one-off, I figured I’d try and get tickers for the biggest team, biggest crowd I could. Sold out. Thank god for that. A mate at work told me of the other option, Swallows.

    We went there, saw them lose 9-0, but saw how much the crowd cheered the team on in the right-field and figured that we just had to get back in there next time.

    Saw them lose there again, and again, and again. 8 losses in row I saw! Including one 4-3 loss to Hiroshima after they scored a grand slam in the 9th innings to overturn a 3-0 winning margin! But I got to understand the rules, loved the celebrations and the beers too.

    That 9th live game I saw was finally our moment. I don’t remember the score but it was amazing to be at Jingu when we won. I’ve never looked back and am now a full time fan of LFC and Swallows. I went to about 20 plus games last season and loved every one. Would I prefer an LFC Champions League win this season, or a Swallows championship?? It’s damn close, and that tells you all you need to know!

    Anyway, good blog, thanks for sharing!

    James

  • stevesayskanpai

    “But the game of baseball I love is yakyu, simply because my baseball education was in Japan and everything I’ve learned has been learned watching yakyu”

    Wow, how similar our experiences have been! I’m also from Birmingham (Birmingham City fan), also fell in love with Japanese basbeall (Hanshin Tigers), and also have a blog about my team (along other things, stevesayskanpai.wordpress.com).

    Nice article!

  • So entertaining!
    I’m looking forward to reading the other guys’ stories, too.

  • Ken Worsley

    Not much of a story from me! Grew up in Boston, grew up a Red Sox fan. Yomiuri is basically the Yankees of Japan, so it was Nippon Ham or Yakult. Domes are a crime against nature, so it became Yakult.

    The team frustrates me to no end with subpar management and lack of marketing or player development skills. But, I’m mostly going to the games to experience the joy of baseball, so it doesn’t bother me so much as when Dan Duquette tried to destroy the Red Sox with the worst general manager skills in history.

    Over the years I’ve gotten into the team enough to say I’ll always follow them, but it’s not like the Red Sox. I would take a bullet for Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez – can’t think of anyone on the Swallows that nearly gets to that level. I would pay to touch the bloody sock. I would think about not calling 911 if Aaron Boone was bleeding out in front of me (though I probably would because no one recognizes him).

  • Thanks for the kind comments folks.

    Nice to see a couple of Brits in the house too! Even if one of you is a City fan!

    James – yes, given a choice between Villa’s success and the Swallows’ it is a close run thing, though it’s been so long since Villa had any real success the gap might be a little larger than for a Liverpool & Swallows fan! Nice to hear your story too.

    Steve – nice to find a fellow Brummie with a similar story. Will certainly keep an eye on your blog, looks interesting. Just a shame you fell in love with a yakyu team I view in almost the same light as your footy team! 😉

    Tomnish – thanks for taking the time to read all that!

    Ken – you’re not a real Swallows fan. We know that. It’s cool 😉

  • I feel obligated to make a wise-ass remark, but I’m weeping. Beautiful story, Mr. Watkins. Glad to see you drew a few more Swallows fans out of the woodwork as well.

  • N26

    Excellent article. And excellent blog! Great to see other Yakyuu fans who seem to enjoy the good life. The first time I saw a baseball game was in 1982 in Yokohama Stadium since then I have been a baseball addict.

    I´m a Scandinavian, Norwegian . Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan so I´m a Japanese yakyuu fan. Used to camp outside ball parks, play trumpet in Yokohama Stadium, Jingu, Korakuen, Dome when I was in junior high, high school. This was before all the official ouendan took control over the bleachers. In the 80s and the 90s you had independent groups but you do not see that any more.I think Furuta got rid of a group in Jingu too. There used to be a group all the way at the top of the bleachers above the gate who used to wave the Japanese flag but after 1 year I did not see them any more just like with all these minor groups in the Hanshin bleachers such as the black happi coat wearing infamous Tokyo Okada Kai .

    Speaking of Aston Villa, the Norwegian striker Carew plays there. He is actually probably the only decent player on the national squad which is really shit at the moment.

    My football team is Vaalerenga from Oslo. Thats a mouthful word for non Scandinavians. When Vaalerenga played Chelsea years ago in the UEFA Cup, English people kept referring to us as Valencia because they could not get the pronounciation.

    Jingu is an excellent stadium but Swallows fans can do more to support their team:) Ganbare!

  • I hope to see many of you guys in the bleachers this season! My work’s kinda slow at the moment, so I may have to resort to pseudo-beers tho 😛

  • Simon,
    I don’t know about “pseudo-beers”, but you can drink fruity chu-hais with the Brummie.
    Christopher

  • Haha, chuhai’s give you one of the worst hangovers! not that I don’t drink em..

  • Ken – you’re not a real Swallows fan. We know that. It’s cool

    Come and keep your comrade warm.

  • Tony (your mate in Birmingham!)

    Hey Dave.

    Great article / story! I enjoyed my time with you and the guys at the Meiji Jingu Stadium and will hopefully repeat in the future!

  • Tony!

    As you well know, mi casa es su casa, so you’re welcome here any time you like. Tis a bit far though….

  • Tony,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    I think I speak for all of us when I say that we hope you’ll be back in this neck of the woods again before too long.

    Come share the misery of another campaign under the current manager. Plenty of misery to go around, we can assure you of that!

  • David,

    Great story about how you became a fan of the Swallows. I was an exchange student at Waseda in 1993-1994.

    I had read about the J-League in World Soccer magazine and was looking into seeing the league when I got to Japan. Lineker played with Grampus, so I have a lot of Grampus stuff because the Whale looked so cute.

    But as an American, baseball was the easiest thing for me to follow because it is the same game, played of course very differently. Plus I had read Robert Whiting’s books and wanted to see the difference between the playing styles.

    My first Swallows game was actually game 4 of the 1993 Japan Series against the Seibu Lions. I went with three other kokusaibu students and had a great time.

    Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I had always followed my “regional/local” teams and just could not feel that I would be a Giants fan. So, for the Central League I was anti-Giants. Hence, the Swallows were to me an underdog and played against the Giants in the Central, plus you could get to Jingu easily and they were winning against the Giants, all pluses in my book.

    Before leaving Japan, I received a Swallows hat as a gift and would wear it in my home town and people would say the Ys looks nice, who is it. I would say that it is a Japanese baseball team called the Yakult Swallows. They changed to the blue Y and red S in 1994, which does look better than the interlocking YS in the 80s and early 90s.

    Japanese baseball helped me learn to read people’s names because of the sports papers, Sponichi predominantly.

    I wish I could pick up one of the new Swallow uniforms, they look awesome.

  • Hi Jeremy

    Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your story too.

    Good work for representing the Swallows with your cap in back home. I actually prefer the older interlocking logo to the new one but I may be in the minority there!

    Hopefully you’ll be able to get hold of one of the new uniforms soon, though I think they’re going to be debuted on opening day. I believe they’re still using last year’s uniforms during pre-season.

    I’m keen to see the new ones in action.

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    “…baseball is not played in the U.K.”???

    Excuse me sir, Baseball was INVENTED in England!

    Check out this MIDLANDS league website:- http://www.mapleleafs.co.uk

    Back in the mid 80’s I played for a Japanese bank team in London called the Regents Park Eagles so I learned early on that baseball isn’t all about the steroid using, wife-beating, philanderers of the US Major Leagues.

    A few years ago an Aussie friend of mine brought me back some Hanshin Tigers souvenirs from a trip to Japan and so I thought I’d follow them.

    I was a bit concerned to hear Christopher Pellegrini description of their fan base?

    Coming from south London as I do, they sound a lot like the Japanese equivalent of Millwall F.C.?

  • What’s up with the standings on that Birmingham Maple Leafs page? How is Leicester, at 4-18, listed as 0 games behind Birmingham, who has an 18-4 record? And Leicester is apparently in second place, ahead of 12-10 Northampton, though Northampton is also 0 games behind Birmingham.

    I like how you can “visit Birmingham Maple Leafs at there (sic) Home Ground.”

  • Phil, I don’t want to presume to speak for Mr. Watkins, but I’d venture he meant baseball was not widely played in the UK, or that baseball is not a top pro sport in the UK.

    He is as aware as anyone that there’s a decent amateur league in the UK and that Great Britain was robbed of an appearance at the Beijing Olympics last summer.

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    Garrett,

    I know, I’m just peeved that a fellow Brit can so easily dismiss over 250 year of baseball history with the phrase “baseball is not played in the U.K.”?

    I suppose I’m not amazed actually, sports fans of all nationalities think their nations ‘national’ sport is the be all and end all and it seems Dave came to baseball late?

    What you’re really getting in the middle of is the age old British baseball vs., Soccer rivalry?

    When I played we had a sign made that read “the next spectator to refer to this game as ‘glorified rounders’ will find out what it’s like to get hit with a baseball bat”!

    I do seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time arguing with friends and workmates that nobody describes test cricket as a ‘glorified’ version of the game you play with a tennis ball and a wicket chalked on a wall and nobody calls the soccer World Cup a ‘glorified’ kick about in the park with sweaters for goal posts?

    Also I wasn’t SO bothered about the expat Cannucks and South Africans that ARE team GB not getting to Beijing but don’t get me started on London 2012!

    For about a week (before baseball was dropped) I was salivating at the prospect of the likes of Cuba and Japan being only a cross town train ride away.

    Your comment about our “decent amateur league” is appreciated if not entirely accurate.
    An old left-wing radical girlfriend of mind disapproved of baseball calling it “organised male violence” to which I replied “this is British baseball luv… there’s nothing organised about it”!

  • I love the idea that there is a baseball vs. soccer rivalry in the UK. (I also love that a Brit such as yourself has a preference for baseball and uses the word “soccer” without feeling the need to explain.)

    250 years, though? 250? I take it that’s including the earliest forms of proto-baseball.

    As for the glorified rounders thing, just remind the soccer proponents that crying and pretending to be hurt are not rewarded in baseball. (The main reason I just can’t bring myself to follow soccer.)

    And “organized male violence”? Had she ever seen baseball? Objecting to the spitting or the obsession with numbers, I can understand. Objecting to the violence just sounds like someone repeating one too many cliches and not looking at what’s going on.

  • N26

    I played for the Norwegian National Team. I played the English National Team in European Championships in Slovenia in, was that 94, or 95? I forget. Anyhow we lost, I forget the score..errr. Anyhow we were leading 1-0 till the 6th, then we ran out of steam. In the end it became like 8-1…? The only thing I remember from the game very well was my Norway´s only RBI double. It was a fast ball, I made good contact, it was a line drive, went over the SS´s head into left center.

    I played until 2000 for Norway and then retired. I also used to play baseball with Derrek Lee whose dad used to play for Yokohama Taiyo Whales in Yokohama. Small baseball world.

    But my passion has been in the stands more than the field for most parts of my life. Playing trumpet in the gaiya-seki. Used to camp outside, sneak into stadiums at night when I was a kid. Great fun, memories for life.

  • That’s great, N26. I’d love to hear more about your experiences. I think I can speak for everyone here at the Tsubamegun when I say we’re very interested in international baseball, especially in countries that are less synonymous with baseball than, say, the US or Japan.

    Also, as a Cubs fan, I’m quite interested in hearing about your experiences playing with Derrek Lee. Actually, both his father and uncle – Leon Lee and Leron Lee – played together for a while for the Lotte Orions and were part of my favorite NPB anecdote ever.

  • I’m just peeved that a fellow Brit can so easily dismiss over 250 year of baseball history with the phrase “baseball is not played in the U.K.”?

    I suppose I’m not amazed actually, sports fans of all nationalities think their nations ‘national’ sport is the be all and end all and it seems Dave came to baseball late?

    Hi Phil and thanks for dropping by.

    So it seems baseball is played in England after all, which I was aware of, all be it from only recently. But my main point was it wasn’t played at a pro-level in the UK.

    My point remains though, that for the vast, vast majority of Brits, baseball simply doesn’t register whatsoever on their radar. In any way.

    And I’d argue your point about it being because of the national sport being the be all an end all.

    Growing up I was aware of our local pro-basketball team (the Birmingham Bullets) and even ice hockey team (the Solihull Barons) but at no point did I ever hear anything about a baseball team. Not once.

    While it seems you’ve been quite deeply involved in the sport in the UK for sometime and thus I’ve riled you a little, for which I apologise, the fact still remains that baseball is a non-entity for most Brits.

    Maybe I should have said “Baseball is not played in the UK at a professional level.”

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    Dave,
    No, you’re right, I’m only joshing. I was in my late teens before I found out baseball was played AT ANY LEVEL in the UK and although I told Garret there’s a baseball/soccer rivalry in the UK it would be more accurate to say there are a few thousand baseball players in the UK who have chips on our shoulders because 99.9% of the population know nothing about our favourite sport!

    Garret,
    It’s not just that baseball’s such a minority sport in the UK it’s that everyone thinks it’s either ‘glorified rounders’ or that if you like it you must be some sort of rabid wanna be American?

    Think about it guys, everywhere in the world that doesn’t have cricket as its summer bat and ball sport probably plays baseball? It’s not solely an American thing.

    The Australians are an annoying exception being (as they are) bloody good at BOTH!

    Anyhoo, that’s why I like to trumpet the fact that we invented it (all be it with some masterful 19th century tweaking of the rules by Mr Alexander Cartwright II) and that we (Brits) were playing baseball a 100 years before Association Football came along (the word base-ball first appeared in print in the England in 1760)?
    I don’t mind being marginalised for playing an old unfashionable sport that nobody’s interested in any more I’d just like my detractors to get there facts right?

  • The Australians are an annoying exception being (as they are) bloody good at BOTH!

    I think that’s great – they’re no joke at football either. Throw the Aussies a ball and 20 years later they’ll have a viable national team.

  • N26

    Hi Garret. Leon Lee was an amazing player who had some fantastic seasons together with his brother Leron Lee who still has the highest carrear average in NPB I think. Leon Lee used to drop by and play baseball with the kids in the park. He was very mellow, down to earth, friendly person. I never saw him lose his temper when playing in Japan. He was known as a gentleman in Japan and thats the impression I have of him too. Derek Lee was already very athletic. However it was not as if he was much better than the other kids, it was all pretty even back then. I just guess he just got better and better and now is an amazing player. He too I think is known to be a friendly down to earth player in MLB just like his dad and uncle was in NPB.

  • Phil, I can only imagine your frustration. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard Arsenal supporters brag about Arsenal being the first pro sports club to have a nickname. Nevermind that the entire National League already existed and all of the teams had nicknames.

    As much as American sports fans are, rightly, criticized for overestimating the global importance of their games, soccer fans the world over are even more guilty of it.

    Keep fighting the good fight, though.

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    Ken,

    Tell me about it, the frustrating b*****ds!

    A friend of mine plays in the Sydney Winter League (www.swbl.baseball.com.au) and their operation puts the British NATIONAL set-up to shame.

    This is one, relatively small city (4 million odd population) and it’s not their ‘national’ game but they can field 10 teams of decent quality amateurs who could hold their own against any team in Europe including some of the lower league pro’s in Italy?

    The standard of the playing fields looks fantastic too

    I wish I knew how they did it?

    I suppose the great weather helps or is it the lack of any sort of culture that forces them all outside with a ball?

  • I suppose the great weather helps or is it the lack of any sort of culture that forces them all outside with a ball?

    Nail on head.

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    Garret,

    On the subject of baseball not being violent, have you seen the video of Yong-Kyu Lee cracking his batting helmet open on Hiroyuki Nakajima’s knee at the WBC final?

    Talking of Nakajuma, I’m like the Lions new faux Detroit Tigers uniforms?

  • Yeah, I didn’t even realize that the Lions had become very dark navy Tigers, but the resemblance is absolutely striking 😛 Lots of Japanese teams used to have faux-MLB unis. The Giants, of course, but also the Carp (Cincinnati), Dragons (Dodgers), old Fighters (Astros in their 80s rainbow glory), Hanshin road (Yankees road), etc. for better or for worse.

  • ‘Okawari’ Phil

    Simon,

    My personal fave was the Marines AWFUL pink and black affair.

    It was sooo bad it went right the round the dial and was cool again.

    I quiet like their recent cerese zig-zag sleeved (alternate?) jerseys too.

    As you may have guessed, as much as I love the technical intricacies of the beautiful game of baseball, I am ‘in touch with my feminine side’ and I’m not embarrassed to get into discussions about who has the ‘prettiest outfits’.

    It may be the closet graphic designer in me?

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  • choulo

    Nelson payano you remember this playing in the Mexican league is a player tested in japan league can help a lot who would then need a power lefty as is the