Recently, many famous and talented baseball players have been coming to America with great fanfare to play in the MLB. Baseball is actually extremely popular in Japan, much more than it is in America. it has truly become the national sport there ever since Babe Ruth went on his exhibition tour of the country in 1934. That tour sparked a fever for baseball that has only grown since then. Because of the scope and professional nature of the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), Japan has become a major source of players that come to the US to play.
The two most famous cases of Japanese players coming to America are of course Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. Ichiro came to play in the MLB in 2001 for the Seattle Mariners and caused a huge sensation in Japan and even in the United States. Nobody believed he would be successful in America because of his small size, and the difference in length of the MLB and the NPB seasons (suggesting that he didn’t have enough stamina for a much longer season). However he beat the odds and become one of the most celebrated and talented players in American baseball, especially with his unique style of batting and his speed. He played in the All-Star game ten times, was the 2007 All-Star MVP and won 10 Golden Glove Awards. These are just among the countless other awards and records he has earned in his time in the MLB. After his time on the Seattle Mariners, he went on to play for the New York Yankees for two seasons, and then moved to the Miami Marlins, where he is still playing to this day. He is truly a legend and an inspiration to all Japanese players that dream of playing in the United States.
Hideki Matsui was also extremely successful in the MLB. He came to play for the New York Yankees in 2003. Matsui came to be known with the nickname “Godzilla” because of of his power, especially when it came to hitting homeruns. He even hit a grandslam in his first game as a Yankee, the first time for any player on the team in history!. Before leaving the Yankees to go to the Los Angeles Angels, he helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series against the Phillies with an incredible .615 batting average and three homeruns. After he played for the Los Angeles Angels, Matsui played for the Oakland Athletics in 2011 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, before retiring that year. Ever since his retirement he occasionally serves as a guest hitting coach for the Yankees and their minor league teams. Matsui showed that a Japanese player can be a skillful power hitter on the most famous and successful baseball team in the world.
Look out for part two where I will talk about current Japanese baseball players in the United States!
Image credit to defpen.com and nydailynews.com