Thursday, March 24, 2011

3/24/11 St Louis Cardinals 3, New York Mets 16

Digital Domain Park, Port St Lucie, FL

Ahem. Did I just go out on a limb only a few days ago, by publicly announcing that, yes, I think the Cardinals will be more formidable than many people realize, and that Jaime Garcia may be one of the best pitchers in the NL that nobody's talking about (that much)? Yes, that was me. This game should be no indicator, it is Spring Training and if this one REALLY counted, LaRussa would have given Garcia the hook instead of leaving him in to 'get out of it.' What "it" was, was the Mets.

This reminded me of a Spring Training exercise 2 years ago, indeed, my very first post...I am much more comfortable with the lineup changes and a bit more adept at scoring the was really the lopsided advantage displayed by the Mets, nearly making their opponent hapless in nature. But this is the CARDINALS, I way...

Chris Capuano pitched an unreasonably great game for the Mets, going 5 innings, allowing 8 hits and 3 earned runs. Garcia on the other hand...uff da! Things were going great for Garcia, just a coupla runs in the first (from a David Wright 1 out 1 on HR), no biggie...with 2 outs in the 4th, Brad Emaus reaches on a single, Schumaker commits an inning-changing error, and that really starts the commotion. Emaus' single would start a run of 9 consecutive hits for the Mets over 2 innings. Garcia leaves the game after 4 innings, 78 pitches, giving up 14 hits (OUCH), 10 runs (only 3 earned) and just one strikeout.

If you like games with gross offensive display...this game was just fine with that. the Mets launched 4 HR as a team, big blasts like those of Matt Den Dekker and pinch-hitter Josh Thole (who hit the ball so far it ended up in the alligator pond outside the stadium) were legendary; besides Wright, Emaus (who went 4-4 for the day) and Angel pagan went yard.

The Cards did their best, but just got clobbered. They thanked goodness that Miguel Batista came along in the 7th and kept the Mets quiet for the rest of the game.

And if you haven't seen Lance Berkman the outfielder yet...he's just as good as you thought he would be. Only a little bit better than Jason Bay.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baseball Players on Twitter

For me, last year saw a definitive change in the way I ‘used’ Twitter (really, as opposed to having an account but ‘not using it’) when MLB Gameday integrated a Twitter window into their At Bat for PC interface. As the season started, I found myself “joining the conversation” (as Twitter’s marketing puts it) which really means, I found a new group of anonymous Cub fans online to exchange smack-talk, particularly during games. By proxy, this led to a rise in “twilationships” and the grotesque expansion of my Cubs and baseball-related RSS Feed from a handful to a boatload. The Twitter window in At Bat…the folks at MLBAM have their marketing down (as if we didn’t know that already).

I could write an entire article about my Twitter experience, less the baseball player focus…but won’t at this time. For now, all I’d like to say is that I found out last year that fans of other teams DO NOT appreciate the same kind of smack that Cubs fans exchange, during or after the game. I’ve been having trouble embracing this…Padres fans are the WORST at this, they have absolutely no sense of humor, and seriously (not jovially) chastise their team especially when they are doing well; take the horrified response of Padres fans to Bud Black being named Manager of the Year as an example. However, I think I have finally found a few Royals fans with the same sardonic wit, biting sense of humor, and pre-disposition for loving and hating their team lightheartedly.

During the offseason this year, myself and many of my fellow “twits” began to discover what started as a very small and innocuous group of professional baseball players on Twitter, mostly major leaguers. This soon expanded to a larger, less homogenous group of professional ballplayers en masse, consisting of mostly minor leaguers and prospects thrust by their own design and perhaps their own initiative for self-promotion and affirmation. Honestly, the majority (by vast numbers) are doing less promotion and more “sharing their professional baseball psyche,” tweeting the anticipation of spring training, signing with a new club, working out, going out to eat, playing video games or Words With Friends, needing technical help (usually Twitter or game console help), picking up family from the airport, inserting proactive biblical words of wisdom as well as secular tenets of motivation and success. With the line between major league and minor league ever-blurred for most of these folks, “baseball players on twitter” has, for me and for many of my peers, become an unmistakable link between our lives/love of the game/fandom and the same for these otherwise normal folks (just like us) with the same interests.

This experience, with this generation…could it serve to cement the bond between the professional and the fan and return the societal passion America has for “America’s Game” to its pre-1994 strike condition? This is more than a trendy “life in the digital age” type of question, but still merely theological in nature…

It all started with “hey y’all” tweets, then “looking forward to spring training” tweets, then posting pictures of green grass and batting cages tweets, then posting pictures of fan fest tweets, then “follow my buddy X” tweets (players and non-players), and THEN…the really fun stuff started. Not that any of that wasn’t fun…

Some examples and discussion on the glory of baseball players on Twitter, only scratching the surface of the action over the past 2 months plus:

Various clubs are well-represented on Twitter; Cubs fans were elated when, among others, popular players such as Ryan Dempster (@DempsterFDN), Casey Coleman and Randy Wells (@rwells36bsi)…along with several prospects, such as Matt Szczur (@superSZCZ4) and Fernando Perez (@outfieldrambler), who is downright HILARIOUS…got Twitter accounts.

Things were going well. Suddenly, on or around the first day of spring training, Randy Wells posted this tweet:

Then this one the following day:

The unofficial “tword” was that Cubs players in training were being discouraged to tweet. Some are adhering to this, some are not. One of Cub fandom’s favorite tweeps sent us this message via @CubsInsider:

Some other major leaguers go above and beyond the call of duty; the two hardest-working ballplayers on Twitter (that are ‘officially’ MLB full-time status) are Michael Cuddyer (@mcuddy5) and Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins). Cuddy, in particular, wins the award, flipping through the what I can only assume are literally thousands of tweets per day to actually answer and retweet hundreds of questions. Logan's wit is drier and more random...his volume is very close to Cuddy's. My favorites from each:

AWESOME!! Now, the next time I see the Marlins play, I can yell “Sharktits” and he will know I’m there.

Hunter Pence (@HunterPence9) gets honorable mention; he’s not as funny as Logan Morrison but he stays busy…he was one of the first ball players I followed on Twitter. I also need to mention Sam LeCure (@mrLeCure) and Matt Maloney (@mo56maloney), two Reds pitchers who spent a lot of time with the Louisville Bats. Matt was gracious enough to retweet my post of his picture on the clubhouse wall recently:

If this (a player responding and/or retweeting one of your tweets) is “Level 1” interaction between fans and players, then “Level 2” is somewhat just as gratifying. Howie Kendrick (@HKendrick47), a n00b to twitter, tweeted this a couple of days ago:

I just couldn’t resist, so I retweeted:

About 5 minutes later:

Some of the smack-talk between team members (and between former team members as well) is very reassuring. These guys can be as hard on each other as we are to them (amongst ourselves, or screaming at the TV) when they muff a fly ball or pitch to a guy they shouldn’t. Twins pitching prospect Ben Revere (@BenRevere9) was tweeting from a college baseball game, and kept bringing up the “medal bats.” Yes, fan-tweeps…leave this one alone; his teammate Denard Span (@thisisdspan) let him know very quickly (even Cuddyer resisted calling him out):

I particularly enjoy the intra-baseball player “inside joke” smack-talk conversation. You may not get the joke, but by context alone…it’s still hilarious.

As a side note, beware…not all baseball players on twitter can handle smack-talk. The Cubs’ Fernando Perez is one of the few:

Many folks learn the hard way (most outspoken about this is Dirk Hayhurst, we’ll talk about him later) that you shouldn’t rack a baseball player on their performance. If you have opinions about their mechanics, their swing, or that silly error they made…feel free to chortle along with your fan-tweeps, but leave the players alone. This does make sense. This is also a nice Dirk Hayhurst segue…

Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose) is one of the most enjoyable players on Twitter. As an accomplished novelist and esteemed Major/Minor League veteran, he is completely unbridled and always interesting on Twitter. Several weeks ago, his rant about a fan who wanted his autograph, which was delivered by Hayhurst via a “Garfoosed” generic card (this means he drew his self-created comic creature “The Garfoose” on the card. The fan then subsequently refused his autograph, which prompted Hayhurst to explode into a multi-tweet “my side of the story” epic (140 characters at a time doesn’t stop him) that then morphed into a Twitter contest for the prized “refused autograph.” Hayhurst received some feedback a few days later on a less-than stellar outing from some unkempt fans…some was valid ‘smack-talk’ business, but some was scout-like advice…all of which hit Mr Hayhurst at the wrong time and developed into a series of public “BLOCKED” tweets where each individual infraction was discussed, one tweet at a time. Just a few days ago, Hayhurst launched into one of the funniest threads ever, all about kung fu. I don’t know, I just love it. He has a great website, do visit it sometime.

One of the most evident impacts of the current status quo with the evolving relationship between baseball players, fans, and twitter occurred on the afternoon of March 20, when Pat Neshek (@PatNeshek), who started the offseason as a member of the Twins’ roster, suddenly announced on Twitter:

Suddenly every single one of Pat’s 11K plus followers knew what nobody else had reported yet, Pat had scooped the entire world of baseball with one tweet. Even the official Padres Fan twitter account appeared mystified…only a few minutes after Pat’s tweet:

As far as I know, this was the first of an unprecedented social media twist to what is truly breaking MLB news of any kind.

Other highlights of personal gems experienced via Twitter during the offseason-so-far, and this is only scratching the surface:

Frank Catalanotto (@fcat27) is on Twitter. I’ve always admired his presence at the plate; he’s served on a few MLB rosters over the last 10 years or so, most recently with the Mets in 2010. Frank is a great guy, his website is very modest and focuses a bit on his support of the Frank Catalanotto Foundation, a cause that raises awareness about Vascular Birthmarks (proceeds from sales of autographed items go toward the foundation). Frank also recently worked alongside Mike Piazza and several others with the Italian National Baseball team during the winter when they came to Florida for a few weeks of training. I’m a big fan of the World Baseball Classic (Frank played on the Italian team in 2006 and 2009) and his tweets and pictures of the goings-on during this unique camp were enthralling. You can tell that even though he isn’t currently on an MLB roster, he is committed to keeping in touch with his fans, and he knows this is the best way to do this.

Frank, one of these days I am going to win your Monday Twitter contest!

Michael Schlact (@michael_schlact) is probably one of the best-loved baseball players on Twitter, period. He had us all glued to our feeds as the story of his injury recovery and ‘non-roster’ status evolved over the past few months. When he was featured in a story on MiLB a month or so ago, this event must have been retweeted a thousand times. Always confident, always positive, always Christian, Michael struggled through a very precarious off-season of conditioning and prayer until recently he was rewarded for his perseverance, a contract with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, of the independent Atlantic League. Now there are thousands of baseball fans, from casual to avid, who are learning more about independent league baseball. And he’s thanking everyone who is congratulating him on this latest achievement. Michael is the real deal, without his involvement on Twitter...potential moments lost like tears in rain.

And…oh joy of joys…we now have American baseball players in Japan on Twitter. First it was former first-round draft pick Bryan Bullington (@bpbullington), now of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp…then it was Clayton Hamilton (@HamiltonClayton) who will be playing for the Yokohama BayStars this year. As a fan of Japanese Baseball (and Americans playing yakyuu in Japan) I can’t wait to read their tweets as they share their experiences.

I’ve tried to build a list on Twitter of all the baseball players I follow, but I keep running into issues…and, I keep adding to the list. Most of us have grown accustomed to clicking on twitter handles of folks mentioned in other baseball players’ tweets to see if they, too are baseball players. This way, we’re all adding what feels like a new player every day, and some days more than one. My fellow Cubs tweep @cowsarecool, I think, has done a great job at this. This list blows mine away, if I had one. Here are some links to lists; if you’re not following any baseball players yet, or if you want to find more of them “easy,” here’s a list baseball players, and just Cubs players as well.

So as you can see I’m a big FAN of this. Completely hooked. For what it’s worth, Facebook just isn’t the venue for this kind of entertainment and “twinformation”…I’m not a fan of Facebook (among other things, it’s way too personal and there’s no “doesn’t like this” button”). In fact, if you try to explain this to someone who does Facebook and does not do Twitter, it’s really murky.

“Oh, so you’re friends?”
“No, I’m following them.”

So, it doesn’t matter if Sheryl Crow and 34,256 others “like” what Denard Span had for lunch. And far be it for me to go around writing on anyone’s wall, friend or otherwise.

You have to consider the social medioric impact of this experience. Now instead of saying “hey my dad saw Roger Maris play in the Minor Leagues,” we can say “hey, Drew Butera just told ‘me’ he’s going to crush some Subway.” Yes, it’s a fake, plastic, digital interactive experience. But it is an experience nonetheless…Duke Leto Atreides said “everyone needs new experiences” and while it may sound kool if you had a baseball player as a buddy, you might enjoy following them on Twitter a great deal more than that. And yes, you may get to know them better this way…it is true, that Logan Morrison admitted on Twitter, to over 13K of his followers, that his most embarrassing moment during a game was “Pooped my pants once.” You just can’t make this stuff up.

And you can’t make this up either…yes, my friends, Kevin Millar (@KMillar15) is on Twitter. Tips and all. Cowboy Up!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

3/19/11 Season Ticket Holder Open House at Louisville Slugger Field

For the second year in a row, I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Louisville Bats Season Ticket Holder Open House with my daughters Kei and Chihiro. It was a little warmer this year (not by much) and the sun was shining brightly. Another fantastic way to get the upcoming season started just right!

To read the story and see pictures from last year's Open House, you can do that here...

We were able to enjoy the same 'exclusive' sights of Louisville Slugger Field that we did last year, and of course partake in our first official "Baseball Meal" of the season...Hot Dogs, Popcorn, and soda while relaxing in the stadium seats...all with a great view of the gorgeous field in front of us, primed and ready for baseball!!

I won't re-hash the pictures from last year, but I encourage you to do so if you missed that here are some pictures of 'stuff' I didn't get to last year, or that I didn't do justice...

This is my view of the pitcher's mound and home plate from the 'manager's roost' in the home dugout. The roost is a flat slab of concrete at field level where you will often see Rick Sweet or Ted Power closely watching the on-field action.

This is a picture of me, standing on the roost, taken by my youngest daughter Chihiro. The grandstand and press boxes are directly behind me; our seats for the season are about 2 sections to my right, on the upper deck.

Here I am in the clubhouse batting cage! (sorry, this one is kind of blurry)

This sign, from the batting cage...this means YOU! Somebody needs to send this picture to Sammy Sosa...

The Bats' clubhouse lounge. I had to explain to my kids what bumper pool was. I wonder if Corky Miller rules this table...

Posted on the wall in the corridor, there are many photos of former Bats record holders from previous seasons. Here's a newer one...Matt Maloney IS the Bats' all-time strike out leader!

The Umpires' locker room...this door was NOT open. NOTICE! No visitors in dressing room!

I tried to get shots of these last year, but they didn't turn out. Several uncut sheets of 1989 Topps hang in the main basement hallway between the home and visitors' locker rooms. Sweet!!

I don't know what year (yet) but this was the Louisville Redbirds.

Back through the dugout...if you've been to a Louisville Bats game, you may know what this is. I don't know the story behind it, but I remember years ago, at my first Bats game, hearing a bunch of clanging metal sounds occasionally coming from the field somewhere. I guess at first I thought it was someone with a very loud and annoying noisemaker...but game after game rakakakakakakakakakdakakakdakakdakakdaka every now and then. You have to be seated somewhere on the first base side (so you can see inside the home dugout) in order to find out what's going on, that's where I was when I saw where the noise was coming from and who was making it. There's a large uncomfortable-looking piece of sheet metal with a couple of slight folds hanging from a chain on the dugout wall closest to home plate (the steps by which batters enter the field are there, right next to the manager's roost). Once in a while, the batter that is "in the hole" will run the end of their bat violently across this piece of sheet metal. Again, I really don't know why but it is what it is, and here it is:

Stevo-sama is on the field!!

You may remember from last year's post how excited I was to see where the Official Scorer works...this year I sat in his chair, here's the official view of the Official Scorer:

Amongst the 2009 and 2010 rulebooks, a large box of pencils, and a few other odds and ends, I found this clipboard neatly tucked adjacent to the window ledge. Yes, this stack is ALL of the scoresheets for every 2010 Bats home games, in order, the most recent on top (9/6/10 last division playoff game at home against the Durham Bulls), all the way down to the home opener on 4/14/10. Aaaaahhhh...

For the record, I can tell you how the Official Scorer got his job...immaculate penmanship. GREAT stuff.

Another great Louisville Redbirds relic on the wall of the hallway headed towards the suites...from when the Redbirds broke the all-time Minor League single-season attendance record on August 8, 1982. I'm not sure if that record still stands today...with the cavernous 'old' Cardinal Stadium (aka Fairgrounds Stadium) with its capacity of over 47K could easily help to break any record when most minor league stadiums hold a quarter of that, at best. But, we'll miss her just the same when she goes down, finally, in the next year or two.

Avid Kansas City baseball fans will be that much wiser to know that Fairgrounds Stadium was to be the home of the Athletics in 1964.

Here I am with Buddy Bat. I asked him what it was like to get thrown out of a game, but he wasn't much for words today.

This event is also well-known for the plethora of Bats items on sale for season ticket holders can pick up game used jerseys (home and road sets) for $125-450 (Juan Francisco's having the highest price tag), uncut Bats baseball card sheets, anonymous game used broken bats, some autographed parapernalia, etc. While perusing the table of goods, I noticed a small stack of lineup cards from 2010 games. Of course, one game from last season I'll never forget too easily was the July 27 contest between the Bats and the visiting Charlotte Knights. Chihiro and I watched from the lawn (which was a BLAST) and experienced home run balls sailing right over our heads, a grand slam from each team, and what has to be the highest-scoring/most total runs in a game I have ever been at. As luck would have it, I rifled quickly through the stack and found the lineup card from that game...for only $3, it was mine and will hang proudly with my other Minor League treasures.

Again, such a fantastic event. Even though I didn't win the free Jersey contest (I think there was a definitive Facebook advantage there) I completely enjoyed myself, one of our favorite days of the that brings us that much closer to BASEBALL!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

3/18/11 Texas Rangers 6, Cleveland Indians 12

Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear, AZ

Hmmm, the Cleveland Indians are looking pretty good in this game. The Rangers fought hard, but starting pitcher Matt Harrison's very uneasy start sealed the deal (4 IP, 4H, 4ER, 4BB, 3K, HR, 1 HB, 2 WP) relief, side armer Cody Eppley gives up 3 ER, Mark Lowe gives up 4 ER, and the Rangers all but give up their chances to beat the Indians.

Uncharacteristic offense...HRs by Elvis Andrus (who did NOT hit a HR in 2010) and David Murphy, plus 2 RBIs by Chad Tracy (I'm glad he found some work). Still not enough; Asdrubal Cabrera (2R, 2H, 3RBI, BB, HR, HBP), Shin-Soo Choo (2H, 3RBI, K, HBP), and Matt LaPorta (3R, 2H, 2RBI, BB, K) kept driving in the runs.

I found out that on a Catcher's Interference call (which I have scored as batter reaches on CI, but is also really an E2), the team opposing the interfering team can "take the play" this instance, Lou Marson's glove hits Murphy's bat as he hits what should be a ground ball to 2B for a G4-3 putout. Julio Borbon, who was on first when Murphy entered the box, tried to stretch his run to 3rd and would have certainly been called out on the tag (1B relay throw to 3B on the G4-3). Since CI was called, the ball was 'dead' at the G4-3 and Ron Washington took the single, so Borbon advances to 2B (the stretch to 3B on the ball in play was disregarded) and Murphy takes 1B.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

3/13/11 LA Dodgers 3, Chicago Cubs 4

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, NV
(Las Vegas Exhibition Game #2)

Second game of the Las Vegas Exhibition series, this time hosting the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. Another one run game, lower scoring than yesterday, but this time the W ended up on the right side!

Zambrano was great, 5 IP, 6H, BB, 3K, only 1 run! Kyle Smit needs to gain a few pounds!! Jeff Baker is good at baseball!!!

Starting for the Dodgers today: Rubby De La Rosa, I saw him start for the Chattanooga Lookouts this summer. Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon were also in the Lookouts lineup for that game, and made appearances in this one as well.

Dodgers' relief 1st baseman Gimenez hits a HR in the 8th inning that "killed" the inflatable cow on the RF wall.

Watching the game on WGN, I got my first glimpse of Trey Hillman in a Dodgers uniform. Ewwwww.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

3/12/11 Chicago Cubs 8, Cincinnati Reds 9

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, NV
(Las Vegas Exhibition Game #1)

Always a fan favorite, the annual 2-day series at Cashman Field this year features not the typical match-up between the Cubs and the White Sox, but a game each with the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 1-run loss by the Cubs was somewhat disappointing, but this was an exhilarating game to watch for many reasons.

Early on in Spring Training, we're getting a good look at the expanded Cubs squad (including Brett Jackson, Matt Camp, Scott Moore, Marquez Smith, and more). The bonus is seeing the expanded Reds squad, featuring several Louisville Bats roster favorites over the past couple of years (Matt Maloney, Zack Cozart, Danny Dorn, Devin Mesoraco, and our favorite here at my house, Todd Frazier). It's unusual to see them in Reds uniforms!

James Russell hung on for 3 innings, 4 R (only one of them earned). Carlos Marmol pitches a typical "cliffhanger" inning, walking his first batter, hitting the next, striking out the third, and then allowing back to back base hits (the second of which scored the hit battter) and one more walk for good measure until striking out Fred Lewis to end the inning. Casey Coleman relieved Marmol and pitched 5 solid innings (2H, 1ER, BB, 2K).

Castro and Scott Moore led the Cubs offense with 2 HRs each (3 of their combined 4 HR were given up by Reds RHP Mike Leake). The Reds maintained pace with the Cubs; Cozart and Dorn led the offense with 2 RBI each, but as the end of the game neared, they remained 2 runs behind. In the bottom of the 9th, Kris Negron's surprise walk-off base hit single with 2 on and 0 outs brought in both the tying run and the winning run.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maryvale Baseball Park, Phoenix, AZ
Spring Training 2012

ZOMG the Cubs beat the Brewers in spring training, featuring the newly defected Aramis Ramirez.  OY.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wally Yonamine 1925-2011

I couldn’t think of a catchy title for this post, there’s so much more to this man and the way I feel about his passing that I think focusing on an interesting tagline would detract from the comments I could make here.

The news of Wally Yonamine’s passing on Monday, Feb 28 at the age of 85 after a long battle with Prostate cancer definitely brought my Spring Training elation to a unique numbing point. Wally was and always will be one of my favorite baseball players of all time, a guy who loved the game, broke a significant barrier in the Japanese world of the sport (a barrier that opened doors for just as many folks worldwide as the barrier in the states broken by Jackie Robinson), and beyond all that, embraced the opportunity to single-handedly change the behavior of an entire nation and ultimately, the way that nation played and cherished the great American game of Baseball, in a way that Americans can truly appreciate.

You don’t have to have seen him in a game to admire his gutsy attitude and his passion for baseball, you only need to read "Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball” by Robert Fitts to understand just about any aspect of his career and personal life. I had always admired him deeply, but I felt that my relationship with his essence was absolutely sealed when I read this fantastic book.

(You should also read Fitts’ excellent “Remembering Japanese Baseball: The Oral History of the Game” which features lengthy discussions with Yonamine, and was the catalyst for the Yonamine book itself)

Wally was born Kaname Yonamine in Hawaii in 1925, even though he was of primarily Japanese ancestry this still made him a foreigner to the Japanese, a Nisei (second generation) in their own terms. The stoic xenophobia of the Japanese restricted him from being considered a countryman by heritage. He was a stunning athlete from a very young age, with considerable skill and ability in Football – in fact, he was drafted and signed by the San Francisco Giants in the late 40s and played on their squad in 1947. It was by principle that he ended up playing baseball to mitigate his risk and recovery from Football injury, and by chance that his success in baseball eventually led to his signing by the Yomiuri Giants as the first American to play professional baseball in Japan since World War II.

When you consider the duality of this situation, the true enigma of Wally’s achievement shines through. As a Japanese American in the late-40s, he was the subject of suspicion due to the resilience of wartime distrust of these people. On the other side of the coin, derision prevailed when he existed as an interloper into the starch-encrusted traditional and nationalistic game of Japanese Baseball during the very same period of time. There was no win-win for Wally, the only thing he had to hold on to…was WIN.

His achievements in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) not only set a personal standard he consistently set out to improve upon, but also showcased a new style of playing to the Japanese…yes, an American style of playing. He was an American, and was unique in not accepting but in joyfully professing this trait.

Wally’s premise as a player and his attitude towards the game – and aggressiveness on the field – turned heads in Japan to the point of enabling (not forcing) the traditional pundits of the game to heed and ultimately adopt his style and love of the game over a brief period of time. You see, this was one person who changed the way an entire nation enjoyed, as well as played, the American game of Baseball. Just think what a Wally Yonamine could do today, here, to break the ice that has hardened so many hearts to the National Pastime. A guy who enters the arena with no love, and proves everything you think about him, his people, and the game he plays with a smile and an effective hook slide.

Wally made it possible for players from other countries, not just America, to enter and share the unique karma that is Japanese Baseball. Matt Murton, who broke Ichiro Suzuki’s single season record for hits in 2010, would have never been afforded that opportunity if Wally hadn’t pushed that door open in the manner that he did. Here is where you consider the similar actions of Jackie Robinson, who never blew his cool, thus improving the electricity and opportunities of Baseball in the U.S.

Wally was also a practicing Catholic, again in a country that systematically rejects this type of Christian faith (and Christian faith as a whole). Always flashing that smile, Yonamine flew the Baseball Flag proudly.

It was Japanese Baseball that changed the way I felt about American Baseball many years ago, it was Wally Yonamine to whom I will always endow the credit for his part in making Japanese Baseball – and American Baseball, too – the institution I love so much today.

Thanks, Wally…you are in a much better place today, and shagging fly balls with the best of the best. It’s our personal pain in missing your presence in our lives here that will someday translate into the benefits of our lives everlasting. Rest in peace, champ!
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