Whatta ho-hum game last night, huh? Seattle sure picked a cruddy time to have a less than stellar performance; the refs only added insult to injury for 'em. The Stones did little to improve my mood at half-time. I thought they were all about to keel over as they plodded through "Start Me Up." (You make a dead man, what?) They did get better though, and "Satisfaction" was a more convincing production. Anyhow, good deal for the Bus and company, and now back to the business at hand...
I got an e-mail from Bronx Banter regular, Mike Plugh, a guy who grew up in and around New York and is now teaching high school in Japan. Dig:
I enjoyed the piece about your day in Inwood and it got me thinking. I see that kind of thing everyday here in Japan and it amazes me. Baseball has been played as an organized game since the late 1800s in Japan, and I can't imagine a greater love for the sport anywhere other than the Carribbean and some pockets of the US. To paint a picture in as few words as possible, I see junior high school kids riding their bicycles in the dead of winter to go to practice. I live in the Siberian snow country of Japan and I swear these kids are dedicated to the sport beyond sane proportion.
In Japan, you choose one sport and you play it year round. When I tell my high school students that I played soccer, basketball, and baseball in my salad days they nearly fall over. They spend 2 hours after school every day practicing in the fieldhouse during the winter. They practice on the weekends for more hours. They run the hallways of the school building to get their calisthenics in.....and we're a top academic school...not a sports powerhouse.
Not too far from us are the Prefectural champions who will be representing us in the Koshien National High School Baseball Invitational held in Spring and then again in Summer for the more famous 2nd round. People stop working to watch the game. I'm telling you.....if you go into a doctor's office the doctors, nurses, and patients will all be sitting around watching a little 1980s looking TV. Same in the bank, or at the restaurant.....
This country is baseball crazy and it's one of the reasons I knew early on that I had a kind of soulmate relationship with the culture. Parts of daily life here are baffling and hard to digest, but when it comes to baseball it's all love.
Reading Mike's letter made me appreciate why a guy like Bobby Valentine is thriving in Japan. It's not simply a detour from his MLB career--though I believe he'll return one day--but a end onto itself. I'd love to visit one day, wouldn't you?