Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My first interview

I don't know if it's really an interview or not, but I'm going to count it. It's the first time some one has asked me my opinion on baseball in the UK, and I gladly answered the questions. Here's the e-mail I received:
I am a student at the University of Brighton in my final year. As part of our coursework we are required to submit a critical investigation on a sporting subject of our choice. As an avid baseball fan, supporting the frequently frustrating Cincinnati Reds, having lived there for five years, I am composing a piece about British baseball and the potential for its expansion. Having stumbled upon your blog, its vast coverage of baseball around the world is definitely something that does receive much coverage and makes for some fascinating reading. Saying this, I would be very much appreciative if you would be able to answer some questions from your perspective about the state of the game over here.
Cool. I'm all for education and baseball, and I like doing my part. Questions and answers below.

What do you think the possibilities of Major League Baseball staging an exhibition/regular season game in the in the near future? (Following in the footsteps of the advances made by the NFL and NBA) Are the chances remote, or is there a distinct possibility?

Not very good at all, and I’m not happy about it. MLB just doesn’t think there is enough of a fan base in Europe to bother with, in my opinion. The complete lack of knowledge about the European teams in the WBC showed that the powers that be just don’t care. I think it would go over well here, but I don’t see it happening for at least another 5 years, at a minimum.

How do you believe the IOC’s decision to remove baseball (and softball) from the Olympic Programme for London 2012 will hamper attempts to promote the sport here?

I think it will have an extremely negative effect. The attitude here is that baseball is still a fringe sport, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. But the UK didn’t send a team to the Beijing Olympics because of funding (they couldn’t afford the £25,000), so this will be a problem. Having baseball on the world’s biggest sport stage in their own backyard would have been what was needed here, particularly if the UK played well. The lack of exposure on an international basis is hurting the sport badly here.

In the previous two versions of the World Baseball Classic only two European sides, the and , competed. As both those nations boast domestic professional leagues, do you feel that it is necessary, in order for (and other nations) to compete, to establish professional ranks within the domestic stage?

Yes. Without a viable professional league, they just won’t get the talent. Right now, it is still at a semi-pro level. But as the league’s become professional, the players can concentrate on the game, and not worry about the distraction of working. Additionally, it allows the teams to go after the best players (one’s they can afford) versus whomever is available to play. It also allows ballplayers from other countries to come, which just increases the talent level competing. Right now, it is still too much of a weekend sport, versus a professional sport.

What can baseball organisers in do to help increase participation in the sport?

The first thing is the organization of youth leagues. If the kids aren’t playing, it has very little chance of taking off. Kids have to grow up with the game to continue with it as adults.

Secondly is local government involvement, in the matter of building proper fields, equipment, uniforms, and administration. Right now, too much of it is done by fund raising and volunteering.

Thirdly, getting school programs going is always good for increasing the profile of a sport. The same as youth leagues, but it is usually more organized in school than summer leagues.

Lastly, but actually most important, is advertising/exposure. It costs money, but it is what is needed. The organizers need to show how wide-spread baseball is in the country, and how many people are participating. More people would be interested if they knew more about it.

What is the likelihood of MLB developing a league similar to the format of the now defunct NFL Europe, to scout European talent as part of a more global search for players?

Not very likely. The minor leagues in the US are too well established, and with the instructional leagues and the Caribbean winter leagues, there is no reason to establish a league in Europe. It is more cost effective to scout here, and bring the players to the states, where they have access to the coaching, facilities and culture. That also allows the individual teams to have better control over the development of the players. That being said, I think a European league would work over here, but it would have to be run independently of MLB. But it could work, with one or two teams per country. It would allow the best players to compete, as well as being an additional draw for former major league players, instead of just Asia.

Why has Major League Baseball previously staged opening series to the regular season in Asian nations, particularly , where baseball already has a very strong following? Would it not serve the league more expand its reaches to less established baseball playing countries?

It would. You don’t need to expose the game in countries where it is already firmly entrenched. But it comes down to money. There are a large number of Asian players in MLB, with huge followings. This allows increased merchandising, as well as selling the satellite and TV packages. They don’t see the money from an opener in Europe. Again, it comes down to the perception that baseball isn’t played in Europe.The opener would also interfere with the playoffs in football, so there is the problem of competition. They just haven’t figured out it’s an untapped market.

Do you think baseball has a realistic chance of succeeding in the given it must compete against football/soccer, cricket and rugby to name of few for funding and coverage?

Succeed is a tricky word. Baseball can continue as it is with no problem, but it won’t be able to grow without something to grab onto. A professional league in Britain or a European league is needed for the game to really take off. It will never outdo football or rugby or cricket, just as soccer will never take over form football or baseball in the states. But it can succeed and grow if it gets the exposure it needs. If not, it will continue as a semi-pro sport.

Having read Josh Chetwynd’s book entitled British Baseball and the West Ham Club, the support for the game peaked just before World War II. Considering the fact that some teams folded before the outbreak of the war, how much do you think the unfortunate timing of the war impacted the league? In other words, if the war had not occurred, do you believe the league would have succeeded?

I haven’t read the book yet, but studying the history of the game here, the league was taking off. A lot of that was Babe Ruth, who became the best known name on the planet. Canadians and Americans had played a lot of baseball during WWI, and it took off after the war. Leagues started up, parks were built, and the game took off. I think baseball would have exploded in Britain if the war hadn’t intervened. Obviously it’s easy to say, but the evidence shows the game was growing and being taken seriously in the British press.

Do you foresee any wealthy benefactors taking the plunge, in the same manner John Moores did in the 1930s, and contributing vast sums of money to kick-start baseball here?

Not now. 25 years ago, maybe. But now there is an expectation of certain things, such as ball parks. The expense of decent parks is too much for one person, and the money that players could make (not US money, but substantial) would prohibit any one person from doing it. You would need to establish a league, with a different owner or consortium for each team. One individual just couldn’t do it. Altruism is great, but there has to be a profit margin, and one person couldn’t swing it.

How much will the removal of MLB coverage from terrestrial television affect the status of the game amongst the British public? Do you believe it will have a big impact, or just a minor one given the late-night programming of the Baseball on Five shows?

Huge. While the game is available via the internet, not enough people know about it. And some people just won’t pay it. It is also available on ESPN Europe, but not enough people have access to it, and won’t pay for it. Taking it off of free TV is a terrible blow to the game here, as it is taking the casual fan away from the game. The hardcore fans will still watch, but that isn’t the issue. It takes new fans to make the game grow. Without exposure to it, new people just won’t become interested

Woo hoo!!!. My little ego fest for the day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Playing baseball in Korea

From CJ Baseball, the blog by former major league pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, is a post about what it's like living in Korea. It's not all baseball related, but it is interesting:
- In Korea older moms and daughters or elderly female friends hold hands or interlock arms a lot when they are walking down the street. It looks nice.

- I saw an umpire standing behind the batting cage during batting practice getting into his game stance, watching the pitch and completely going through his ball and strike calls at the top of his lungs while another umpire critiqued him.

- During a recent game our team skipped batting practice. It wasn’t a day off from BP, those don’t exist in Asia, we had played poor defense the day before so instead of hitting we took infield practice during our BP time. I’d love to see the reaction of players in the States if you tried to pull that one off.

- I don’t think they use the term or sell things by the “dozen” in many places outside the U.S., ten eggs in a carton here.

- Single riders in taxi cabs in Korea often sit in the front seat next to the driver and leave the back seat empty.

- I had warmed up and was ready to start the 3rd inning the other day but had to wait because the manager of the other team was holding a full team meeting in the dugout. It wasn’t a short wait.

- About every other day I stop into Dunkin’ Donuts and grab some donuts for the manager and the team. The same girl is always working the counter and I always greet her with a smile and facial expression as to say “good morning, nice to see you again.” I can never get her to smile back and she always looks at me as if she has never seen me before. I am a face in the crowd in the States, but not here, I never see other foreigners.

- In the middle of an at bat the manager of the team hitting called timeout and summoned his batter over to the on deck circle and had a meeting with him that lasted at least a minute. I saw this twice in two separate games.

- Our team played a game against the Police…and lost.

- I checked into a hotel today that had clocks with times from around the world above the reception desk; Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Paris and London. I noticed the minute hand was not exactly the same on all of them which immediately bothered me. Upon further review I realized the second hands weren’t moving and that the batteries were dead in each clock, there is a part of me that wanted to go buy batteries and fix them.
I lived in Korea, and I can remember some of that. Never really thought much of it, to be honest. You get used to it all after awhile, and you kind of stop noticing it. Just a different way of living, and how people do things and play the game.

On the umpire thing, kind of different. When I work the plate and a pitcher is warming up before the game, or if it's a new pitcher, I'll get down in the stance to see how his motion looks and if he has an unusual delivery, or what the break is on his pitchers. But I'm not practicing my calls. Just not going to do it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Reaching milestones

A few ballplayers have recently reached some career milestones in Korea. While the numbers don't necessarily match up to what we have in the states, you have to remember that they play shorter seasons, and haven't their leagues as long as we have.

Baseball as a profession is still relatively new (within the last quarter century or so) thing in Korea, so they haven't had guys putting up 20 year careers to reach the big numbers. But, for persepective, it's still a big deal. They're not competing against the Major Leagues, they're competing against the other teams and players in Korea.

So I would say these are noteworthy accomplishments:

Samsung Lions slugger Yang Joon-hyuk hit career home run number 340 on Tuesday night to to tie him with former Hanwha Eagles great Jang Jong-hoon for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) all-time home record.
The career numbers:

340 - Jang Jong-hoon
340 - Yang Joon-hyuk
328 - Shim Chong-soo
324 - Lee Seung-yeop
Yang isn't a bad player at all:

The 39-year-old debuted in the KBO in 1993 with the Lions, and cracked his first home run in his third game. He joins Jang, Lee Seung-yeop (Japan) and Shim Chong-soo (retired) as the only league players in the elite 300-homer club.

The left-handed power hitter is also the all-time leader in hits (2,207), doubles (437), total bases (3,714), RBIs (1,323), walks (1,286), at-bats (6,962) and runs (1,241).
Sounds like the Hank Aaron of the Land of the Morning Calm.

That's not the only milestone acheived:

Hanwha Eagles veteran right-hander Song Jin-woo recently became the first pitcher in the history of the KBO to reach the magical 3000th innings milestone. He debuted in the KBO as a reliever in 1989 with the Eagles who were then sponsored by Bingrae.

The 43-year old pitcher, who is currently in his 21st KBO season, best season was in 1992 when he racked up 191 1/3 innings and finished the season 19-8 with 17 saves in 48 appearances. In 2002, he set a career mark for innings pitched with 220 while finishing with a 18-7 record over 31 starts.

Song registered his 2000th career strikeout in 2008, and has compiled a record of 210-153 with 103 saves during his illustious career with the Eagles franchise.
The Korean John Smoltz?

The Mexicans are coming to Los Angeles

Yeah, here come the Mexicans. But I don't think too many people will have any problems with this:

In an announcement made prior to the day's Caribbean Series match-up, the Dodgers team revealed that two Liga Mexicana de Béisbol clubs - the Diablos Rojos of Mexico City and the Sultanes of Monterrey - will play an official regular-season game at Dodger Stadium.

It's a historic event - never before has a Major League Baseball team presented a Mexican League game in its own stadium as an individually priced event.
Hey, it's baseball.

The game, set for May 16 at 6PM Pacific, is being billed as La Serie Azul - in recognition of the Dodger blue that permeates the Dodgers' longtime home.

Tickets prices range from $5 to $30, and the Dodgers are handling all ticket sales
.I guess it takes a smart man to make this work:

Joseph Reaves, the Dodgers' director of international relations, notes, "We have a long-standing relationship with our Mexican fans and with those of Mexican descent around the world. We do not take that for granted."

The genesis for the Mexican League game came from Reaves, who says it was part of his pitch when interviewing in 2007 for the newly created position.
But it isn't always easy to do these things:
Task One involved a meeting with Roberto Mansur, president of the Diablos Rojos - considered the No. 1 influencer in Mexican baseball. Monterrey Sultanes general manager Roberto Magdaleno was then approached.

Once both teams signed off on the plan, each team juggled its schedule for a one-game trip to Los Angeles.

Then came a call to Arte Moreno, owner of the Dodgers' American League rivals from Orange County - the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Since the Angels shared territorial rights with the Dodgers, permission from the Angels was another hurdle to clear in bringing Mexican League baseball to Southern California.

The Angels approved the deal, and the date selected - May 16 - happens to fall on the one weekend during the Major League Baseball season when the Dodgers and Angels are both out of town.
It makes sense, economically and socially, for this to happen:

In 2008 pitcher Esteban Loíza became the 17th Dodger born in Mexico and the ninth Dodgers pitcher of Mexican heritage. The Dodgers' long history with Mexico dates to 1964, when the 1963 World Champions played an exhibition game in Mexico City against the Diablos Rojos. But it is the 1980 arrival of Mexican pitcher Fernando Valenzuela to the Dodgers that cemented the team as a fan favorite among Mexicans on both side of the border. The Dodgers' last visit to Mexico was in 2003, when the team played the New York Mets in a two-game series at Estadio Foro Sol in Mexico City.
I lived in L.A. for two years. I'm going to leave my personal opinions out of it and just present the facts.

That's a change for me.

No baseball in high school

A few days ago I did a post on how baseball was going to become a DODDS-sanctioned sport in Europe. I think that's a good thing, but it isn't going to work everywhere. As of now, DODDS has no plan to sponsor baseball as a school sport in the Pacific region.

There are a lot of planning issues involved, as well as logistical ones:
But many hurdles must be overcome, DODDS-Pacific Far East Activities Council officials say, before baseball and softball can be added to the FEAC calendar of activities.

Besides money, many other questions, including tournament format, logistics and participation, must be addressed, FEAC chair Don Hobbs said. "There are lots of things we’d have to tackle," he said.

How long would such tournaments last? Would international schools be invited or would it be limited to DODDS-Pacific teams only, as is the case with wrestling, cross country and tennis?

Would there be Class AA and Class A divisions, or would all teams play as one? Then there’s tournament location; not all DODDS-Pacific schools have baseball and softball fields, and must rely on base services.

Some schools play baseball and softball outside of spring; Guam girls softball was played in November and December, while Matthew C. Perry and E.J. King in Japan play baseball in the fall.
It actually is a problem, as the schools in the Pacfic region tend to be small. And becasue of the large distance required for travel and the expenses (planes vs buses), the seasons tend to be short and the squads small.

There are actual sports issues also:
Then there’s the availability of the most valued commodity in both sports — pitching. National Federation of State High School Associations rules limit baseball pitchers to so many innings per 24 hours; the actual limits vary from state to state.

Coupled with the lack of experienced arms at smaller DODDS schools, it’s long been asked by DODDS-Pacific officials if there are enough arms to go around.
And a few others:
The weather could also put a damper on things, especially on Okinawa, where the rainy season begins at mid-May and can last for weeks.

"Rain is always a factor. Baseball and softball are sports that can’t be played in the rain," Seoul American baseball coach Bob Heckerl said.
I spent time in the Pacific, and dated teachers at the DODDS high school, and have remained in touch with them. As well as helping to officiate football. The squads are small, and one or two studs can dominate easily.

It isn't quite over yet:
All of those issues are expected to be discussed at the next FEAC meeting, slated for May 18-19 on Okinawa. "There isn’t a (FEAC) meeting when it isn’t on the agenda," Hobbs said.
But I don't see DODDS adding baseball to the school schedule anytime soon. I wish they would. These kids are in this situation while their parents are serving their country in the military. They're away from the states in a foreign enviornment, and anything like this helps ease the transition.

Plus, it's a proven fact that afterschool activities are good for kids. It keeps them out of trouble, forces them to study hardy to stay eligible, and leaves them less time for mischief. Even with all of the problems, DODDS should get this started. The end result doesn't really matter in this situation. But the means do.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New article up

Sorry, everyone. Bad timing. A new job, a poor internet connection, and issues at home have me backed up.

Probably no new posts today, but there will be on Monday.

In the meantime, check out the new article on baseball de world.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A new weekly feature

I'm going to start a new feature, and try to do this every Wednesday, as long as I get enough participation.

I don't follow a specific team or league, or even country, since what I do (or try to do) is promote baseball internationally, and not in any one area.

I'll admit, at times, it hard to find something to write about, because I want to stay generic.

So here's an idea I had. I look at a lot of different blogs every day for ideas, and I thought about doing some profiles of the specific blogs that cover baseball outside the states.

What I going to do is an interview with the writer of the blog and a little write up about the blog.

I want to give this a try. I'm getting a few people reading every day, and the more we can spread the word about international baseball, the better.

I will be contacting the people who write blogs I read every day, but if you have a blog about international baseball, and would like to get a write up, let me know.

The first one starts below.

East Windup Chronicle - an international baseball blog

The first blog I'm going to cover is East Windup Chronicle, a site run by two ex-pat Americans living respectively in South Korea and Taiwan, covering all aspects of baseball in South Korea and Taiwan.

Aaron Shinsano has lived and worked in Korea for over four years. A native of the Bay Area and graduate of UC Davis his first writing job was with the Oakland Tribune. He’s written two unpublished manuscripts, the most recent a fictional novel about Koreans living in Korea and America. These days he does a little freelancing, does part-time scouting for the Chicago Cubs, co-edits this here web site, and co-hosts the occasional party with his wife Daisy Gatsby. As a boy he glued himself to the Cincinnati Reds, mostly because he was a fan of “The Baseball Bunch.” He hopes you like East Windup Chronicle and urges you to contact the site at

Jackson Broder is a writer, International Scout for the Minnesota Twins, and DJ living in Taiwan. Prior to taking up residence in Formosa, he worked in Tokyo and New York City, getting an advanced degree in things Asia-related and speaking at colleges with fancy names. He is a contributing writer for the Taipei Times and Yahoo! in addition to EWC. He hopes you like EWC and urges you to contact him at Especially with high paying job offers and/or philanthropic ideas involving baseball in developing nations.

Unlike most bloggers, these two are actual baseball people, scouting for major league teams. They cover not just South Korean and Taiwanese baseball, but Japanese also, and the Asian baseball experience in general.

They don't do a lot of game recaps, which is fine by me. Lots of places to go see that. But the blog is filled with good baseball analysis, some humorous pieces, some semi-serious pieces, and just general good reading, as well as Major League baseball and life in Asia.

I check them out a couple times a day, and it's a good read. There is always something entertaining. They even Twitter. Whatever that means.

Almost 2 years and nearly 1600 posts in, it's a great read and a look at life that most Americans never experience.

Individual interviews follow in the posts below.

Some of the highlights (at least to me):

Categories of Being

Addictive Chewable Fruits (3)
Ask a Korean Sportswriter (7)
Baseball (516)
Baseball - Asia (139)
Baseball - China (8)
Baseball - Japan (172)
Baseball - Korea (182)
Baseball - Southeast Asia (1)
Baseball - Taiwan (82)
Baseball Cards (4)Cricket Debate (3)Culture (112)
EWC Liquor Cabinet (15)
Five Things You Need For a Korean Baseball Game (1)
Golf Crime (8)
Gone Native White Guys Take On Things Asia Related (1)Gratuitious Shots of Attractive Women (45)
Gratuitous 80's Nostalgia (2)
Guys on Elephant Testosterone (9)
Korean Baseball Cartoons (6)
Ladies of North Korea (8)
Lost in Translation (6)
Mockery of the game of baseball (5)
My Asian Tattoo Means What?! (3)
Obnoxious Polls (2)
Politics (45)
Random Baseball Memories (3)
Scouting (19)
Scouting Mishaps (2)
Sex Scandals of Asia (11)
Shameless Self-promotion (11)
Stadiums (3)
Tributes (17)
Truth Stranger than Fiction (4)
Yankees With She Male Fetishes (2)

20 questions with Aaron Shinsano; of East Windup Chronicle

Aaron Shinsano has lived and worked in Korea for over four years. A native of the Bay Area and graduate of UC Davis his first writing job was with the Oakland Tribune. He’s written two unpublished manuscripts, the most recent a fictional novel about Koreans living in Korea and America. These days he does a little freelancing, does part-time scouting for the Chicago Cubs, co-edits this here web site, and co-hosts the occasional party with his wife Daisy Gatsby. As a boy he glued himself to the Cincinnati Reds, mostly because he was a fan of “The Baseball Bunch.” He hopes you like East Windup Chronicle and urges you to contact the site at

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I'm Aaron Shinsano. I live in Ulsan, Korea and am one-half of East Windup Chronicle. I've had three serious girlfriends, but have been married to a Korean woman for three years. We have two cats, Kittya and Whitey. I like spicy food and have never seen the movie "Top Gun."

2. Why are you in Korea, or writing about Korean baseball?

I came here as part of a TESOL master's program, part of which included teaching English at a Korean institute. I met my wife within a couple weeks of arriving, and, well, that's been that. Writing about Korean baseball has been an outgrowth of starting East Windup Chronicle. Before we started the blog I had a passing interest, but since starting EWC, and of course beginning to scout baseball in Korea, I've become much more interested.

3. What was your interest in Korean baseball before?

My wife's mother used to run a ramen stand at the Lotte Giants stadium, so the first time I met my wife's mother (which is a big deal in Korea) it was there at the stadium. I didn't even see the game, but I worked all day boiling ramen and drinking beer. Some relatives of my wife came by and seemed genuinely horrified that she was dating a foreigner.

4. What is your best memory of Korean baseball?

Daniel Rios during the 2007 season was amazing. He was the first foreign pitcher to win 20 games in the KBO, and he positively dominant all season. Actually, that also had a lot to do with me getting interested in Korean baseball.

5. Which team is your favorite, and why?

I've always been a Lotte Giants fan, mostly because they're the home team where I live and the fans are amazing. Growing up I always tended to root for teams that weren't in my area, so I wanted to get it right with Lotte. But I have to say, this year I'm not feeling it as much. I really admire SK and what it's done. As I've said on EWC, it's without question the best run organization in Korean baseball, and they put a quality team on the field every night. No big name stars, no egos getting in the way, they just win.

6. Who is your favorite player, and why?

Probably Kim Kwang-hyun of SK, mostly because he's a tall lefty with great breaking stuff. That's kind of my ideal pitcher. A sky high release point, good control, lots of K's, a slider, two kinds of curveball, a nice changeup and a good heater. Overall dominance.

7. What is your favorite Korean ball park, and why?

In terms of comfort and modernity nothing beats SK's Munhak stadium in Incheon. In terms of fun Sajik Stadium in Busan is like a 30,000 person party. It's one of just a couple stadiums that allow you to bring whatever you want to eat and drink into the stadium and the Giants pack the place every home game. Plus tickets are about $7.

8. What is your all-time Korean team?

Well, again, I've only been watching Korean baseball four or five years, but I'll say

C: Kang Min-ho, Giants
1B: Lee Dae-ho, Giants
2B: Goh Yong-min, Doosan
SS: Lee Hak-ju, Cubs
3B: Kim Dong-ju, Doosan L
F: Kim Dong-yub, Cubs
CF: (tie) Ha Jae-hoon, Cubs and Lee Jeong-wook, Doosan
RF: Lee Jin-yeong, LG Twins

P: Daniel Rios, Doosan/Kim Kwang-hyun, SK sidenote

--- no DH. Awesome. For those who need them, there will be DH's in Hell!!!!!! ---
I stole the line from Bill at The Daily Something.

9. Will you continue to follow Korean baseball when you go back to the states?

Sure, but it won't be the same. Any given night there are at least two, and as many as four KBO games on TV. I love flipping around and watching bits of all four.

10. Why did you start the blog?

I'm a writer by trade and it's always been my passion. I worked as a journalist for five years after college and have written a couple of unpublished fiction novels. I had a blog for a couple years when I moved to Korea and really grew enjoy the format. Enjoyed writing mine and reading others. For a little while I started a second blog, but luckily Jackson asked me to help him start an Asian baseball blog. At first I was apprehensive, and hadn't written about sports since high school, but I kind of fell for EWC straightaway.

11. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

I've never had any big goals for EWC. It'd be nice if it made a bunch of money, but it doesn't and I don't think its theme is consistent enough for it to be picked up by Yahoo! or CBS or anyone like that. It had a lot to do with me getting into scouting, so I'd say it's already served its purpose. Plus all the ladies. Can't forget that.

12. What American team do you support?

Chicago Cubs. Once you start spending your real-life time working for a team there's no alternative. At least for me. I'd been a Reds fan my whole life, but I think it's a little like when you get out of a bad relationship and are with someone that makes you happy. From time to time you might consider what your life might have been with the former, but you don't lose any sleep over it.

13. What is your first baseball memory?

I played t-ball when I was five or six. I was a Reds fan at the time, and my team was the Reds, so that was special. I actually had to go to the bathroom so badly once while playing outfield that I just went in my pants.

14. What is your favorite baseball memory?

See #13. Just kidding. Just before I moved to Korea I went to a game at PacBell Park in San Francisco. It was a Thursday night. Two games before, Bonds had ended a game with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th. The game I was at was the exact same situation…two days later. Score tied, bottom of the 10th. As Bonds walked to the plate they showed the home run from Tuesday’s game on the big screen. The crowd went crazy and as Bonds stepped in the batter’s box, and throughout the AB, the crowd was reacting as though he’d already hit another home run. They weren’t anticipating another home run, they were expecting it. Demanding it. He wasn’t pointing out to the right field fence like Babe Ruth did, but he didn't need to. The crowd did it for him. Then he hit it out. Into McCovey Cove.

15. What do you hope to take away from your experience of Korean baseball?

A well-paying job in Major League Baseball.

16. What is the general feeling of baseball players in Korea getting military exemptions?

Well, first and foremost they don't. It's something they all have to deal with before they're 28. The team that won the gold medal in Beijing was exempted, but it's not the kind of thing anyone complains about at all.

17. Any knowledge of baseball in North Korea?

I've thought about that a bunch of times. I'm sure, somewhere, at some point, it's been played. But being socialist and living under totalitarian rule they prefer sports that allow people to disappear into the woodwork and not be singled out for bad play. So they like soccer. Baseball may not work for them.

18. Ever been to the DMZ, and what did you think, if so?

Never been.

19. How do Koreans really feel about baseball?

I think there are things that really appeal to the culture, as is the case in Japan. I think it has to do with the intricacies, the strategy, the balance, the man versus man element within a team game. Baseball is a thinking person's game, and I think Koreans appreciate that. The popularity of baseball waned a little after the 2002 World Cup and soccer was the be all and end all. But now the national team stinks and people are realizing how dull soccer actually is. Not far from where I live a middle school built a very expensive state-of-the-art turf soccer field, and that school's team is actually the top rated in the country for that age group. But yesterday as I walked by I saw some kids playing baseball on it. It was a beautiful sight.

20. What else would you like to say, on any baseball subject?

I wish there were a good baseball-themed restaurant in Korea. A place to go have a beer, maybe eat hamburgers with buns that look like baseballs. Some Korean memorabilia on the walls. A bunch of TVs showing games. That'd be fun.

So he doesn't believe in the DH, he's never seen Top Gun, and he's a beer and burgers type guy. I forgive the fact that he works for the Cubs, even if Grandpa won't.

Thanks, Aaron, very much for taking the time to do this. Good luck with the blog.

Even if you don't go every day, please go check out the site and read a few posts. It will be worth the time.

20 questions with Jackson Broder; of East Windup Chronicle

Jackson Broder is a writer, International Scout for the Minnesota Twins, and DJ living in Taiwan. Prior to taking up residence in Formosa, he worked in Tokyo and New York City, getting an advanced degree in things Asia-related and speaking at colleges with fancy names. He is a contributing writer for the Taipei Times and Yahoo! in addition to EWC. He hopes you like EWC and urges you to contact him at Especially with high paying job offers and/or philanthropic ideas involving baseball in developing nations.

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I'm a scout for the Minnesota Twins and the co-creator and editor of EWC. I'm in my early thirties. I used to be a DJ in New York for about ten years and taught in universities in the states and Asia. I am married and have a daughter who is nearly a year old named Zoe Chen.

2. Why are you in Taiwan, and writing about Taiwanese baseball?

I'm in Taiwan for a few overlapping reasons, the foremost being I met a beautiful Taiwanese woman while I was going to grad school in the bay area and I followed her out to Taiwan. We're now married. I had been cultivating skills previously to get into MLB internationally but I figured I'd probably end up in Japan or mainland China.

3. What was your interest in Taiwanese baseball before?

None actually. I knew nothing about it before I came here. I was more interested in Japanese baseball, since I lived in Japan for two years in Tokyo.

4. What is your best memory of Taiwanese baseball?

I can't single out a best memory but they all involve around getting to know the kids that play ball in high school here. They are funny, interesting kids and if you take the right approach you can become friends with them. I like to shoot the sh*t with the coaches, drink green tea with them, get to know them. The sport here is going through a lot of negativity right now, but I like to think of them as growing pains that accompany Taiwan's increasing contact with the international pro game.

5. Which team is your favorite, and why?

My favorite team is the Twins of course. I work for them, but also grew up cheering for them because I grew up in Minneapolis. If you mean in Taiwan, I tend to cheer for Nan Ying and Ping Zhen because I think they have forward thinking open minded coaches that try their best to act in the best interest of their kids.

6. Who is your favorite player, and why?

All of the '87 Twins team, Kirby especially. If you mean in Taiwan, my favorite player is a little guy on a high school called Kaoyuan. He'll never be a prospect because he's too little but if you watch him he's one of the most intelligent, disruptive baseball players you'll ever see. He's constantly creating and making things happen.

7. What is your favorite Taiwanese ball park, and why?

Tien Mu stadium in Taipei because of the beautiful backdrop (fog-covered mountains), and a series of baseball fields in Taitung where they hold high school tournaments. Taitung is like a terrestrial paradise.

8. What is your all-time Taiwanese team?

Don't really have one, if you're talking about the pro level.

9. Will you continue to follow Taiwanese baseball when you go back to the states?

Well, if fate is kind to me Taiwanese baseball will continue to be part of my profession for a long time. I'm not sure when I'd relocate back to the states as my family is here. If I move anywhere, it would probably be Japan. I love it there.

10. Why did you start the blog?

Well, first off because there was no real English language source providing coverage of Asian baseball leagues that was in-depth. Japanese baseball had stats and a chat room, but no actual stories. I knew that interest in baseball in Asia was just getting started in the states and that it would fill a need. Plus, living abroad and being in a sometimes alienating environment, it's good to have a creative project. I met Aaron and discussed it with him, and we got along immediately and both saw that we could create a project that would fill a void and that no one was really doing. We had a common vision and both agreed that it would be cool to start a baseball site that also provided a cultural lens to what goes on out here.

11. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

The main thing was I wanted to create a reliable and more objective source of coverage of Asian baseball in English, and also create a website that covered Asian cultural stuff as well. Asia is where it's at in the world right now, its the most exciting and interesting place on the planet.

Most coverage at the time in sites like SI, ESPN was always covering Asian baseball in annoying, orientalist terms of difference, 'otherness' and novelty, there always had to be talk about how different Japan was, sushi, samurais, how the game is different. Aaron and I both knew that the game going on out here was a lot better than people were giving it credit for, and that there should be an objective source of coverage treating baseball in Asia with the same type of analysis that was going on in the states. I wanted stats on Asian players, breakdowns of the game that were the same as the ones used with baseball in MLB, and there wasn't really a site like that. So we made one ourselves.

12. What American team do you support?


13. What is your first baseball memory?

I don't know about the first, but it mostly involved games in the Metrodome when the Twins were under the Calvin Griffith regime. I played a lot of strat-o-matic as a kid and collected baseball cards. I had an old Rod Carew card in my desk, the '77 one where he's changing his helmet. I was born in '75, so I was two then.

14. What is your favorite baseball memory?

Being at Game 6 of the 1987 world series and the Twins winning that game.

15. What do you hope to take away from your experience of Taiwanese baseball?
Hopefully a career as a director of international scouting someday.

16. What is the general feeling about the poor showing in the Classic?

My own feeling is frustration that not everyone with power to make changes are taking the necessary steps to try to improve the game or getting the right message from the poor showing. The rest of the feeling, well, I think people are angry and disappointed. They see other Pacific Rim countries improving rapidly around them and want to know why their own team isn’t improving also, especially because there is no lack of talented players here.

17. How do Taiwanese really feel about baseball?

They live and breathe it. There's a picture of a baseball team on their currency. Everyone here knows about it, follows it to some degree, pays attention to it.

18. What can you tell us about the gambling/game-fixing problems in Taiwan.

Gambling is really embedded in the culture here, and like any form of vice or corruption if there isn't a form of oversight or some kind of incentive to change the behavior it won't change. While I believe that those in baseball know its going on, there’s a kind of wink wink nudge nudge agreement and tacit understanding that its part of how things work here and it’s an accepted part of the game. Plus, since there's no free agency and most players in the CBPL know they are there for life, why not throw one down the middle accidentally if it means you'll get a few grand or more for it?

19. What else would you like to say, on any baseball subject?

Thanks for reading our site...we always feel good knowing what we do is getting out there and people read and appreciate it.

Okay, it was only 19 Questions, but I don't know that much about baseball in Taiwan.

I agree completely with Jackson' assessment of how the American sports media treats baseball outside the U.S. It's too much of a, "Oh, look, they play baseball, how cute" mentality. And they couldn't be further from the truth. And he's a Strat-o-Matic guy. Cool.

Thanks, Jackson, very much for taking the time to do this. Good luck with the blog.

Even if you don't go every day, please go check out the site and read a few posts. It will be worth the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Work stuff

Still new on the job, and the boss is back from vacation and expects me to work.

I'll have something up this afternoon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pete Rose has a soul mate

It appears Pete Rose isn't the only all-time hits leader who likes to sell off his memorabilia at auctions. Japan's Ichiro Suzuki, currently of the Seattle Mariners, has decided to have a sale also:

The Japanese sports maker Mizuno Corp., under an advisory contract with the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki, put on sale April 17 Ichiro sports goods to commemorate the 3,086 career-hits record he reached by breaking Isao Harimoto's record in Japan for most career hits.
Obviously, it's his stuff and he can do what he wants with it. But somehow Ichiro always came across as an honorable and nice person, not someone like Pete Rose. But you have to wonder. Baseball personality-wise, the two are very similar. Driven to play the game, and succeed at it. Very competitive guys who want to win, but don't mind piling up the stats while they do it. They even play the same style of game, in my opinion.

But personality-wise outside the game, Ichiro seems to be the like the guy you wouldn't mind having over to the house for a Sunday afternoon BBQ, while Pete Rose is the kind of guy you would end up hitting, if you had to sit next to him at the bar.

Pete Rose had what should have been a Hall of Fame career. Ichiro is having the same kind of career. Now they're both e-Bay hounds. Lets hope the similarities end there.

Need a job for the summer

Are you looking for a summer job?

Do you like playing baseball?

Only want to work 4 days a week?

Ever wanted to visit Europe?

Then do I have a job for you!!!
Anyone looking at playing baseball in Italy can comment here. There is a team looking for a pitcher and catcher with an EU passport. While the season has already started, it will continue to the middle of August. The team that you will be playing for will play two weekly games on Saturday afternoon and evening, with three practices per week. Sounds like there would be some free time to see a bit of Italy.

It appears that your travel to Italy and return will be paid for and housing will be provided. The monthly salary is a maximum of 1,000 euro tax free and would depend on what kind of resume you could offer as far as contribution to the team.
If only I hadn't found a full-time job. I would be on the plane right now. If you're interested, here's how you can find out more:
If you have any interest you can comment here or contact Fausto directly at
Let me know if you go. I'll write about you.

What have you got planned for Thursdays?

Just in case you're interested in watching Italian baseball, and of course you are, you can do it on the Internet:
You can watch the Italian Baseball League live on the internet. Follow the link to the live stream of RAI SPORT, choose ‘RAI Sport altre camere’ and enjoy the game between CARIPARMA and TELEMARKET RIMINI. And then bookmark the link, you can watch games of the IBL each Thursday evening live. You only need to have downloaded the Microsoft Silverlight player.
Of course, it's only once a week, but what else do you have to do on Thursday.

And I like the way they used Sliverlight. Just another league telling Bud they don't have to do what he does. Good stuff.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Father's Day is coming

This is going to be a long post, but it will be worth read. This one is a copy, and needs to be printed out, but I will provide this link also.

This is the top-12 baseball gadgets out on the market right now, and now that I have a job, I will be shopping:

Hot dogs, peanuts, beer, air conditioning, and HD games on a Saturday afternoon. Ahh, baseball for the geek chic. As old and classic as our national pastime is, baseball is often enjoyed even more with the help of gadgets. Whether we're playing the latest video game simulation, or getting our scores and standings on a mobile device, we need our baseball, and we need it now.

Gone are the days of penciled-in scorecards. Instead, we check box scores online, play fantasy baseball in online roto leagues that do all the math for us, and watch multi-camera broadcasts in Japanese. Don't fret, though, baseball purists; the gadgets on the following pages are sure to keep the dream alive, the grass green and fragrant, and the crack of the bat just as crisp as it was at the school yard.

1. Automatic Professional Baseball Electronic Scoreboard - $129.95

The Scorecast from Ambient displays scores and standings from all of Major League Baseball. In-progress games are updated almost instantly, and the schedule even includes projected starting pitchers. Ambient promises that its wireless score and standing network is available in all 50 states, and there is no monthly charge for the data. The $129 price tag probably means that this is only for serious fans, but our test unit did all it was supposed to do, getting updated scores within minutes of the first powerup. The Scorecast measures five-by-eight inches, uses four AA batteries, and can be wall mounted or set upright on your desk.

2. Radar Pitch Baseball - $24.95

Remember boasting about your 65 mile-per-hour fastball in little league, but no one believed you could bring the cheese? The Radar Pitch Baseball could just solve all that, making heroes of some and chumps of others. This authentically sized and weighted $24.95 baseball features a display that promises to tell you just how fast your high heat really is. In our tests, speed measurements were a bit erratic, but that didn't stop us from having a good time trying to get that embarrassingly paltry 50 MPH "fastball" up a bit.

3. RevFire Pitching Analyzer - $395

Maybe you're a serious pitcher looking for a pro contract and you want some deep pitch analysis. Or, maybe you're a serious baseball nerd with decent disposable income (it'll run you a cool $395). Either way, the RevFire pitching analyzer not only reads speed, but it also calculates spin rate, an important factor in figuring out how much your cutter is cutting and your curve is, er, curving. It measures spin rate from four to 50 revolutions per second, along with speed, and comes with two balls and a device that replaces a standard radar gun.

4. Games: 'MLB 09 The Show' and 'MLB 2K9' - $39-$59
(SCEA $59, PS3, PSP & MLB 2k9 - 2K Sports $59, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii)
Ever since playing Baseball on the Atari 2600, we've been massive fans of baseball video games for those off days. Today, baseball video games are more realistic and complex -- and fun -- than ever. If you're looking for the best of the lot, check out 'MLB 09 The Show' for the PlayStation 3, 2, and PSP. On the Xbox 360 side, 'MLB 2K9' will do you just fine, although it lacks the polish of 'The Show' and its 'Road To The Show' mode, in which you play the part of a scrubby minor leaguer trying to make his way to the Bigs. Prices run from $39 to $59 depending on platform.

5. 'MLB At Bat' for iPhone - $10

Major League Baseball's official iPhone application is back, and it's better than ever. The $10 application still includes the live score updates, at-bat pitch locations, and video highlights that made it a great app in 2008, but the addition of live game audiocasts puts this thing in a class of its own. Consider that a subscription to MLB's radio feeds are $15 for your PC alone, and you can see that this is a heck of a steal for serious baseball fans on the go.

6. MLB Network - "Free" Depending on Cable System

Baseball couch potatoes are in for a treat this year, as the MLB Network has launched on most major cable providers. The new channel launched on January 1, 2009 and will broadcast 26 live games in high-definition on top of 24/7 news and analysis all year around. On-air talent includes such baseball heavyweights as Matt Vasgersian, Al Leiter, Barry Larkin, and Dan Plesac, just to name a few. If you don't get this channel, call your cable provider and give them a little Sweet Lou once-over until they set you up.

7. Classic Mattel Baseball - $11.99

This Mattel handheld game is anything but new, but it's a classic and we had to include it. Mattel briefly brought this '80s wonder back to Wal-Mart for just $11.99 a few years back, and you can find it for even less than that on eBay if you look hard enough. Blinking red lights and a simple control scheme make this the portable choice for retro lovers (or old people like us). Besides, who doesn't love the '80s, what with its red LEDs, baseball mullets, George Brett pine-tar freak-outs, and Rickey Henderson stealing every base available?

8. Executive Batting Practice - $24.95

Those office putting machines are cool and all, but Executive Batting Practice brings batting practice to the suit set. The $24.95 pitching machine hucks window-friendly balls that the boss man can hit with a little, collapsible bat. Unfortunately, Executive Batting Practice has been discontinued, but keep an eye out for it at layoff stoop sales near you.

9. Wii Grand Slam Sports Pack - $19.99

'Wii Baseball' provides simple relief from the complexities of the big video games, but swinging that remote around is a bit more satisfying with the Grand Slam Sports Pack. This pack of remote attachments includes a bat that clips onto your Wii controller to enhance the baseball experience. The package is only $19.99 and comes with tennis, golf, driving, and, of course, baseball attachments.

10. Scoreboard Clock - $69.99

You've got the jersey, the poster, the hat, and the videos, so the only thing left to schwag out for your favorite team is your clock, right? The Scoreboard Clock is available for all major teams, and includes the time, date, and temperature. The clock is available for $69.99 and measures an impressive 20-by-14 inches.

11. Mitt & Ball - Prices Vary

These amazing inventions, made of leather and string, are what we call the "mitt" and "ball" for a game called "catch." In all seriousness, though, let's be real: baseball season is all about getting outside and shagging some flies in the sun. Mitts and balls can be had for a lot less than most of the things on this list, and we would be seriously amiss if we didn't include the original baseball gadgets. Now get out there and play ball.

12. The New (High-Tech) Yankee Stadium - Approximately $1.3 Billion
Shutting down the original Yankee Stadium was questionable at best, but the new House That Jeter Built is a technological beast to behold. The New Yankee Stadium sports a giant 59-by-101-foot HD LED scoreboard and a $15 million Cisco network that allows fans to see replays, order hot dogs, and watch the game on the stadium's 1,100interactive, flat-panel, HD displays -- even in the bathrooms. The displays will even let fans look up traffic patterns to plan the best route home after a game.

I couldn't get the pictures to load. I'm not that smart, and don't know how to do it. But check the link out, they're all there.

A Tuffy Rhodes sighting

We have a Tuffy Rhodes sighting, and I couldn't be more excited. He's a former Royals farmhand, even though he never made it into any games with them, and is a member of baseball trivia forever for being one of only 3 players to hit 3 homeruns on opening day.

American Tuffy Rhodes hit his 444th homer in Japan to move into a tie for 12th place on the career home runs list with Yomiuri Giants great Shigeo Nagashima. Rhodes connected for a three-run homer in the fourth inning of the Orix Buffaloes' 10-2 win over the Seibu Lions on Wednesday.

The 40-year-old Rhodes leads all active players in Japanese baseball in home runs. Tomoaki Kanemoto of the Hanshin Tigers is the closest to Rhodes with 425.

Rhodes, who previously played with major league clubs the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, is in his 13th season in Japan.

Sadaharu Oh holds the record for most home runs in Japanese professional baseball with 868.

Rhodes tied Oh for the most homers in a single season with 55 in 2001 when he played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes.
I remember when Tuffy first went to Japan, but I can't believe the kid is 40-years old, and has been there for that long. And 444. That's averaging 34 dingers a year. Not too shabby.

His major league record:

6 Seasons 225 590 74 132 29 3 13 44 14 7 74 121 .224 .310 .349 .659 79 206

Just a season's worth of play over 6 summers. And not really good ones.

His career in Japan:


2003.KIN.....138...508...94.....140..16...0...51...309....117...7..1....98..11..137....276...608...391 2004.YOM...134...523...95.....150..17...0...45...302......99...3..1....72...2..147.....287...577...378


A nice little career for Tuffy, and one he should be proud of. And maybe this will put an end to the debate of whether or not players from the Japanese leagues should be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.

I mean, lets be serious. Look at what Tuffy did in the states, and look at what he's done in Japan.
Is there really a question about it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More problems in Taiwan

As stated a few times, baseball in Taiwan is having some major problems. Gambling and game-fixing is rampant, and the government is looking to crack down on it. It might not be 'The Untouchables', but I think I would take it seriously. From The China Post:

Prosecutors from the southern city of Tainan will begin to monitor professional baseball games from Friday in a bid to prevent a reoccurrence of game rigging.

Starting Friday, a group of 17 prosecutors from the Tainan District Prosecutors Office, who are also lovers of the baseball game, will take turns to lead local police to monitor the games and collect evidence if they think there are signs of rigging, said Lin Chih-feng, a chief prosecutor.
Its not a complete fix, however:

However, only games at the baseball stadiums in Tainan will be monitored, Lin said.
So it's not happening at the 3 other parks where the Chinese Professional Baseball League plays. This is a serious and on-going problem in Taiwan:

Professional baseball game rigging and related underground gambling have been rampant over the past two decades since Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) was launched in 1990.

Over the years, some coaches and players have been detained and indicted for game rigging. In some cases, the coach instructed the pitcher and the other players on the team how to play in order to produce game results in line with the team owner's plan. This allowed underground gambling rings to net huge winnings from their bets.
It seems like some people in the government are starting to take it seriously, but if you only crack down on 25% of the problem, that still leaves a 75% margin of error.

An interesting fact that I didn't know. You learn something new everyday:

Taiwan was the sixth nation in the world to establish a professional baseball league, following the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Mexico, in that order.
I guess the Caribbean and South American leagues aren't considered professional baseball, and the Mexican League didn't count before 1990. But hey, who am I to quibble.

C.J. to the minors

C.J.Nitkowski, former major league pitcher, is now in South Korea, pitching for the SK Wyverns, the 2-time defending champ. While he was in the Korean Majors, he isn't any longer. After 1 inning, in his first start, he is now a minor league pitcher in Korea. Here's C.J.'s own take from his personal blog he's keeping:

So I faced 7 hitters and 6 of them I pitched well enough to get outs, 1 of them I really messed up. I’ll take 6 out of 7 any day especially knowing that HR to that type of hitter is something that won’t happen too often. It was just one of those innings. Despite the three runs I wasn’t fazed by what that happened. I was confident with the way I was throwing but I was taken out of the game.
The team is 2-2 right now, and has made some major shake-ups after just 4 games:

Also deactivated were our starting 1B, 2B and shortstop. The team is currently 2-2. This is an unique experience for an American.
I lived in Korea for a year, and while I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the Korean mentality, this doesn't surprise me. If you've ever paid attention to Japanese baseball, read any of the books, or watched any of the movies, then you shouldn't be either. The Asian way is much different than any other way, and making a scapegoat out of 4 players for a bad start is not usual, but isn't unusual either.

Here are the takes from a couple of other posts. They have a much better take on what is happening in Korean baseball.

East Windup Chronicle:

Well, I think there’s more to the story than what we’re getting. Korean employers, rightly or wrongly, have a funny way of testing the mettle of foreigners, attempting to quickly weed out weak-minded individuals. They don’t really care what you’re bringing into the situation, your value is exclusively what you’ve shown to them. My guess is that somewhere along the line SK saw something in Nitkowski’s makeup it didn’t like and is giving him a brief window to leave quietly. His value to the team will be much greater to the team later (if he’s able to contribute) than it is now.

In his most recent blog post (April 9) Nitkowski himself says he nearly quit upon hearing of the demotion, but only decided to stay when one of his teammates talked him off the ledge. If he wants to play in Korea he’ll tough it out, take his demotion seriously, and will make the most of his second chance, because he will positively get a second chance.
A lot more at the original post.True Stories of Korean Baseball:

CJ Nitkowski has been sent down to SK's minor league team. Joining CJ in the minors are 1st baseman Lee Ho-jun, 2nd baseman Jeong Geun-woo and third baseman Na Ju-hwan. All of these guys could be back in a few days. I get the impression that manager Kim Seong-geun was tired watching mediocre play for 4 games and wanted to send a message.
That's the major portion of it from Matt, as the rest is a daily roundup.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not picking on C.J. He's doing something I would love to do, and that's play baseball for a living, at any level, in any country. For a guy who has pitched at the highest level, to be sent down like that must be a slap to the ego, and you have to wonder if they are trying to get him to go home. To be fair, the homerun that was hit off of him was hit by a former major leaguer, who hit a few in the bigs.

I admire guys like C.J. who are willing to keep the dream alive, even in situations like this. Especially when he has to be away from his family, which makes it incredibly hard to do.

I hope he gets a chance at redemption in the Korean bigs again. No one should have to end career like that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New article up

My latest, greatest article is up on baseball de world.

Take a gander. I'm sure many people will have somethng to say.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The inluence of Babe Ruth in Cuba

This is a sort of, somewhat, semi-interesting piece about the effects Babe Ruth had Cuban baseball. It's a decent write-up, and I don't particularly have any issues with it.

The author states that Ty Cobb had a bigger influence in Cuba than Babe did:
If appearing frequently in the sport pages of newspapers and magazines is an indication of popularity and influence, one has to reach the conclusion that, at least through the early twenties the most admired and watched American player in Cuba was Ty Cobb. Cobb’s name and achievements were regularly highlighted and chronicled. The reason for this may be that the “Georgia Peach” barnstormed in Cuba a couple of times or more, and of course, at least for Cubans, that his racial attitudes were not well known at that time. I can conclusively say that the Ty Cobb style of game, what I would call the “Cobbean Baseball,” was imitated by Cuban players and admired by legions of Cuban fans. Many years later, in the 50’s and 60’s I knew many old Cuban baseball fans who were loyal fans of the Detroit Tigers entirely because of Ty Cobb.
That actually makes alot of sense to me, and I'm not for or against either player being the biggest influence. I don't think it really matters. What I have an issue with is the subjective manner of research he used:

My tools for the project were as follows:
1. A study of Cuban magazines and newspapers collections from 1908 through 1935, when Ruth retired.
2. A questionnaire that was mailed to 50 players, including, non Cubans, such as Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Venezuelans and Mexicans.
3. A study of Cuban records and playing fields, and
4. My vivid recollections which date from 1938 when my father who, at times, acted as ex-officio Commissioner of Cuban Baseball in the 30’s, took me to see the Saint Louis Cardinals play two Cuban professional teams on one golden October afternoon which will forever remain in my memory.
As someone who was a history major in school, I've done some papers myself, and in other aspects of life. I'm not saying he's wrong, I just think it's very subjective.

One issue I do have is this:

One must remember that Baseball was introduced in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and perhaps even in Venezuela, by Cubans and not Americans. [1]
I don't agree with that, as that's making the assumption, in my mind, that baseball developed independently from the United States. The same reason baseball developed and grew in Cuba was the same reason it did in the other countries. An American presence. There were American military stationed in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic for long periods of time, and Americans working in the oil and mining industry had been in Venezuela since before the turn of the century.

I understand he's proud of baseball in Cuba, he's fallen into the trap of - "I'll knock down your accomplishments and heroes to make mine look better." I would expect better from a university professor.

He goes on to make a valid point about Babe Ruth's influence on Cuban baseball, mainly in hitting homeruns, and I don't disagree with the conclusion. The destination is fine. It's the journey that needs to be looked at again.

Viva Beisbol in Cooperstown

While I'm usually against doing anything based on race, ethnic groups, religion, lifestyle (if we keep telling everyone how we're different from them, how are we ever going to be together), this is probably a good idea. In fact, I kind of like it:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will unveil a new permanent exhibit entitled ¡Viva Baseball! this spring in Cooperstown, honoring the Latin-American impact on baseball through a celebration of Caribbean Basin countries and players. Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Tony Perez are scheduled to participate in the one-day exhibit-opening on Saturday, May 23.
The players from the Caribbean have had a huge impact on the game, in line with the impact of black players finally being allowed in. And lets not forget, a lot of Latin players were on the wrong side of the color line. There were a few Cubans before Jackie Robinson, but they were few and far between. And they had to 'look' a certain way. This is a good way to commemorate that:
¡Viva Baseball! features nearly 150 artifacts and a state-of-the-art multimedia presentation celebrating the Latin love affair with baseball, spanning nearly 150 years of history. The exhibit focuses on the rich baseball traditions of the major baseball-playing countries of the region: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In video interviews located throughout the exhibit, Latin-American Hall of Famers and Major League All-Stars provide firsthand accounts of playing in their homeland, their journey to the Major Leagues and insight into what makes Caribbean baseball special.
The exhibit will celebrate the Latin Hall of Famers:
Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente became the first Latino elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 and has since been joined by Martin Dihigo, Jose Mendez, Perez and Cristobal Torriente (Cuba); Marichal (Dominican Republic); Rod Carew (Panama); Cepeda (Puerto Rico); and Luis Aparicio (Venezuela).
There will be historical items on display:

Some of the historic artifacts to be included in ¡Viva Baseball! are: a ball from the first organized pro season in the United States that was used in an 1871 game that featured Cuban Esteban Bellan, the first Latin American big leaguer; a jersey from Puerto Rico's Clemente; a glove and cap from the Dominican's Marichal; a jersey worn by Hector Espino, the "Mexican Babe Ruth;" and jerseys and equipment from current Latin-American superstars Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Johan Santana.
Obviously, I can't make it there, but it's just another good reason to visit the Hall.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The baseball problem in Taiwan

I have written a couple of other posts about the problems with baseball in Taiwan. Chronic gambling, allegations of game-fixing, and a loss of teams, with just 4 left in the Taiwanese majors.

The government in Taiwan is throwing money at the problem to try and fix it, as baseball is a near religion on the island:
In the wake of the crushing defeat of Taiwan's national baseball team at the hands of the Chinese national team in last month's World Baseball Classic, the Kuomintang government of President Ma Ying-jeou has proposed spending NT$260 million over the next four years in a drive for an "instant" revitalization of baseball that may well speed its demise.
This, to me, is completely different than cities in the U.S. paying to build new stadiums for major league teams, which is something I am against whole-heartedly.

However, what we're talking about in Taiwan is the survival of the game itself, and Taiwan's place in world baseball. While I thought it was a good idea, not everyone agrees. Imagine that. From the Taiwan News comes a dissenting opinion:

Indeed, the government's plan may well lead to an exacerbation of the current preoccupation with baseball players instead of dealing with the far more critical problem of the lack of social support in our society for professional and amateur athletics. Such a fate would not be unprecedented.

For example, after the 2002 World Cup, the then Democratic Progressive Party government threw money into cultivating or recruiting talented soccer players so that Taiwan could have a chance to enter the next World Cup tournament in 2007.

Moreover, after the conclusion of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, ex-president Chen Shui-bian and the then DPP government tossed even more taxpayer funds to achieve a touted goal of snaring at least seven gold medals in the August 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, in which the "Chinese Taipei" ultimately failed to win even one gold medallion.

These "fast food" campaigns not only failed to achieve their objectives but instead became obstacles for the development of athletics in our country. After all, cultivating athletes without paying attention to building support in society for athletics has only succeeded in authoritarian or socialist societies. After our democratic transition, Taiwan can no longer sustain any professional sports for which cannot attract paying spectators.
The staff writer (odd that its a nameless staff writer and not a beat writer, unless that's the standard) feels the issue is one of basics:

It should be noted that the best teams in Asian classic or major competitions are from Japan and South Korea, both of which have numerous baseball teams and competitions beginning in elementary and middle schools through university level leagues whose games are supported by spectators from nearby communities as well as the schools themselves.

Since only such a sustainable web of social support can provide fertile soil for the cultivation of elite talented players, if Taiwan is unable to revitalize community interest in society for baseball at all levels of competition, there will be no way to truly revitalize the sport and enhance the quality of our national team no matter how much taxpayer money the Ma government spends.
He's completely right about that aspect of it. If you don't get communities involved (Oakland, Pittsburgh, Washington) or play the game at a level where people will grow up with it, then it will never take off. Soccer is a growing sport because the people pushing it were smart enough to get youth leagues and school programs started. Now there is a viable, if still lesser-quality, major league in the states. Someone needs an ass-kicking for that. Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn let that happen.

I'll be the first one to admit that I don't know enough about baseball in Taiwan, and throwing money at the problem might not be the best way to go. But it does seem like some thought has gone into it:

The three-point plan drafted by the Sports Affairs Council and approved by the Cabinet April 2 Cabinet April 2 aimed to "establish a second-level league, promote local-level baseball teams and curb gambling."

Besides painting another "pie in the sky" by setting a target of getting into the semifinals of the next World Baseball Classic, the plan also aims to place priority on the stabilization of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, which has now shrunk to only four teams, launch the organization and training of a minor league teams, set up a national team training system and provide subsidies to improve performance.

Under the proposal, each of the four remaining CPBL teams will receive NT$10 million subsidies annually to set up minor league teams that will play at least 60 games in a season, while the government will assist local governments and major enterprises set up an amateur baseball league by organizing 10 new teams in addition to the current two groups sponsored by the Taiwan Power Co and Taiwan Cooperative Bank.
The major problem with that, as the writer sees it:

However, the success or failure of such a scheme will ultimately depend on the quality of the teams and their capability to attract fans, but a rushed effort to form 10 new amateur teams subsided by taxpayer funds could easily turn into a melee of cutthroat competition for players from the existing ranks of professional or former professional players and leave the question of sustainable training from the grassroots in the dust.

Third, the Cabinet plan for each city and county administrations to establish their own amateur baseball team or even to set up professional teams with government financing would effectively turn professional athletes into quasi-civil service employees and shift the burdens of covering deficits for unprofitable teams from the owners to the shoulders of taxpayers. Moreover, the reality of huge inequality in resources between special municipalities and ordinary counties and between northern and southern Taiwan will inevitably lead to the concentration of the better players in teams footed by affluent Taipei City, Taipei County, Taichung City and Taoyuan County.

The inevitable domination by these four northern districts will erode the national viability and fan appeal of the proposed amateur league.
Still, the biggest problem facing the baseball in Taiwan:

Last but not least, the Cabinet's plan is light on concrete methods to curb chronic gambling and may indeed exacerbate this plague and instead may spread the curse of gambling with an excessively rapid expansion of teams and more opportunities for game fixing.
Gambling and game-fixing will kill baseball faster than anything. If that problem isn't fixed first, what difference does the rest of it make.

For more on baseball in Taiwan, go to Taiwan Baseball. Ben, who writes the blog, was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and give a first-hand opinion on what is happening. This is his take on it:

The bottom line is that it is difficult to find premium talent on the island right now. Top guys like HC Kuo, CH Tsao, CF Chen, and CM Wang were signed nearly a decade ago. What's contributing to this? Essentially we've seen a decrease in the participation by children/youths in the sport of baseball. Let's take a look at a few alarming trends. Ten to fifteen years ago, demographically, the number of kids playing baseball was 70% Taiwanese (Han ethnicity) and 30% of aboriginal descent. Nowadays, it's the reverse: 70% aboriginees and 30% Taiwanese (Han ethnicity). Aboriginees make up only less than 5% of the entire population in Taiwan!

Also, in 1992 there were 850 elementary schools with little league teams. Nowadays there are only 400. From these two figures alone, it's obvious that the talent pool for Taiwanese baseball players has shrunk considerably.

Baseball also competes against other sports (particularly basketball) for thletes - and unlike the US, kids just don't play two sports in HS.

The biggest problem in Taiwan is that the education system is screwed up and the quality of coaching is subpar.

So where do I think the money that the government is spending should go? It's pretty obvious that more money should have gone towards cultivating and developing the sport at a much younger age.

The only person that came out publicly to criticize the government about spending some serious coin on industrial league teams rather than youth baseball was President Lions GM Jason Lin. However this got little attention by the media.

Article of President Lions GM Jason Lin blasting the government for spending so much money only to help "older players." (Babelfish required)
by the Chinatimes on the number of little league teams,4752,11051203+112009031600308,00.html

Thanks, Ben.

Need a sumer job in baseball

This is an ad I found for summer jobs, coaching baseball:

Specialist Baseball Instructors/Counselors
Ref:GYC 1173189
Duration:from 9 weeks
Wage:£350 per month
This would suit individuals with bags of energy who want to spend their summer working outdoors coaching an exciting sport to kids.

or call: 0845 344 7538
Hey, its a great idea. The only issue I see with it is that it's for university students in the United Kingdom to come to the United States and coach baseball. I'm not saying the Brits don't know anything about baseball, because I'm involved with the local league here, and it's good.

But you would think that maybe they would to Africa or Asia and coach soccer, or cricket, or something like that.

I'm not knocking it, because it's about baseball. It just seem strange. For Brits to come to the states and coach baseball.

But maybe they'll love it and take it back to the big island. Couldn't hurt.

If you're a Brit university student, looking for something to do this summer, and you know anything about baseball, give it a try.

The Classic still doesn't get any love

I finally have definitive proof that not a single person in the main stream media in the United States actually paid attention to the World Baseball Classic. Sure, they talked a good game, but they weren't watching. How do I know? Thanks to that pesky save rule thing, the most unusual save of all time occured in one of the games:

Cuban reliever Yolexis Ulacia tonight achieved one of the most usual (and perhaps even entirely unprecedented) statistical oddities during Cuba's 16-4 "mercy rule" demolishing of Mexico in World Baseball Classic Pool B play. Ulacia relieved with two outs and two aboard in the top of the seventh, with his team leading only 7-4. Batter Jorge Vázquez therefore represented the game's tying run. Ulacia promptly struck out Vázquez (looking) to end the inning and the Mexican threat.

In the bottom of that same frame the Cuban juggernaut exploded for 9 tallies, the final three coming on Freddie Cepeda's walk-off three-run blast over the center field fence. Cepeda's homer stretched the margin to 12 runs and the game thus immediately ended due to international baseball's ten-run mercy rule (the game ends once there is a ten-run margin at any time after the home seventh).

The result of these events was that Yolexis Ulacia was credited with a game "save" despite the fact that his team triumphed by a 12-run margin. I doubt this has ever happened before, certainly not at the higher levels of organized baseball. It is a circumstance that seemingly could only occur under the conditions of international baseball's special 10-run "knockout" regulation.
Yep, a 1/3 inning save for the reliever when his team won by 12 runs. And none of the guys from any of the alphabet sports outlets said a word about this? Unbelievable?

The same guys who jam it down our throats at every chance that a guy is a great reliever because of the number of saves he gets, then turn around and ridicule the save rule, missed this. Why?

Because they weren't actually watching. Is it any wonder the Classic isn't popular in the states?

And do we need any more proof that the save rule needs to be severely overhauled.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Great Britain national baseball team: 1907-2007

From the Great Britain Baseball Scorers Association and Project Cobb, comes a look at the history of the national baseball team in Great Britain. It's a well-done, well-researched article, and shows that the game is a lot more popular over here than a lot of people think it is.

The Great Britain national baseball team: 1907-2007
Written by Josh Chetwynd

Some of the material covered here has been used elsewhere in other works on British baseball written by Josh.

As early as the 1890s, Great Britain baseball was taking on the world. In August 1892, a publication called English Sports wrote about a pair of matches between New York amateurs and Preston North End, a baseball team affiliated with football in that area. Three years later, teams from Derby and Stockton took on a squad from the US called "Boston Amateur" in what The Times dubbed "an international game of baseball between Englishmen and Americans."

Over time, Great Britain evolved from merely putting up club teams (or a combination of a couple of different clubs) against foreign foes to selecting a national team to represent the whole country. The early signs of a Great Britain representative squad emerged as early as 1907 when the British Baseball Association hosted a game between "English-born" and "American-born" players. In 1927, a series of games were contested at Stamford Bridge between an "All-British" team and an "All-American" squad.

In the 1930s, the sport began to flourish as professional leagues emerged in Yorkshire, Lancashire and London with some teams drawing more than 10,000 fans for big match-ups. Great Britain's crowning moment came in 1938, when Team England, which would later be referred to as a Great Britain side, beat the US on home soil by four games to one.

The 1938 triumph was a testament to the development of play in the country. The event was described in the 13 August 1938 edition of the Yorkshire Sports and Football Argus as "the first baseball test match" in the UK. Later, it would be dubbed the inaugural World Amateur Championships with Great Britain its winner. More baseball glory might have come Great Britain's way the following year when a team was selected to travel to Cuba to play in the second World Cup. But lack of funds forced Great Britain to stay at home. Any hope for an immediate return to the world baseball stage was, of course, dashed by the outbreak of World War II. Still, during the war, Americans stationed in the UK often played baseball and there were even some examples of Great Britain teams joining in. For example, in July 1943, there were ads placed in the Liverpool Echo publicizing a series of games between the "American Nite Sticks" and "Alf Hanson's All-England Nine" team. Nevertheless, the war clearly drew attention away from re-forming a true national squad.

Following the war, baseball remained part of the sports landscape but had lost some of its momentum. Chuck Cole, a player from that era, tells how baseball was included at the Festival of Britain exhibition in London in 1951. While baseball was demonstrated for some four to five weeks during that summer, he only remembers "one or two enquiries" about playing. Still, there were instances of representative squads playing in this decade. In 1952, there were three events between England (a Great Britain squad had yet to be formed) and foreign teams. This included a British representative squad going abroad to The Netherlands to play as part of the Dutch Jubilee Celebration. Because of the ongoing presence of Allied troops throughout Great Britain, baseball did continue to have vibrant domestic competition between clubs made up of mixed-nationality sides. So much so, that in the 16 July 1953 issue of Baseball News, "a News Sheet of Baseball, published by the South Eastern Baseball League," ran this editorial about the future of a national team:

International Future?
This progress of English baseball could enable us to hold our own with other countries in International games, and with the formation of the European Baseball Federation (in 1953), it is obvious that baseball is becoming internationally minded. As the birth-place of baseball in far off days, let it not be said that England is to be among the "also rans" of a sport that hopes to gain Olympic recognition.

But, by the latter half of the 1950s, international competitions mainly involved Great Britain clubs and all-star teams playing US military personnel. Teams from Hull, for instance, took on the US Navy (1958) and an American Air Force team called the Chelveston Cowboys (1959). In 1960, Great Britain joined the seven-year-old European Baseball Federation, which is today known as the Confederation of European Baseball. Great Britain was the eighth nation to enter the organization. Although at least one Great Britain squad played a friendly game in the five years following the country's entry into the federation, it wasn't until 1967 that a Great Britain national team competed in a European Championships. That team fared well, winning the silver medal in Belgium (albeit in the absence of European baseball powerhouses Italy and The Netherlands, who didn't participate).

Yet even after that triumph, British baseball was too regionally fragmented to put together a consistent, cohesive national squad. International play in 1969 was emblematic of the factional nature of the game in that period. Representative teams from both South Africa and Zambia travelled to Great Britain for a series of games. Instead of British baseball's governing body forming a single representative squad, various regions put up all-star teams against the foreign competition. When Zambia came, the country played all-star teams from the Midlands, the North-East and the North-West along with various club teams. The South Africans competed against the National League Southern All-Stars in London and then played against the National League Northern All-Stars in Hull.

The matter didn't seem to get much better throughout the 1970s. Schisms between organizers of baseball in the North and the South occurred, according to some officials of the time. A few of Great Britain's past national teams have reflected this as only players from one section of the country were represented. For instance, the squad that went out to Italy to compete in the 1971 European Championships essentially comprised players from just the North and the Midlands; a solitary victory, over Sweden, led to a seventh-place finish.

Nevertheless, there have been highlights - particularly once the Great Britain national programme became more organized in the 1980s. At that time, Don Smallwood, president of the British Amateur Baseball and Softball Federation, underscored the importance of a national team. "The need to have an International team is, I feel, very important for the growth of the sport," he wrote in First Base magazine's Autumn 1986 edition. "To wear the uniform of your country must be the pinnacle for every athlete and provides that incentive to achieve excellence in every sport."

Since then, Great Britain has won the European B-pool Championships twice - in 1988 and 1996 - and, in 2007, made an exemplary showing at the European Championships winning the silver medal ahead of such traditional powers as Italy and Spain. The squad has also included its share of stand-out individual performers. In 2001, pitcher Gavin Marshall, who represented Great Britain at the senior level from 1993 to 1999, became the first player born and bred in the UK to sign a professional contract in the US. Other players, like infielder Alan Bloomfield and pitcher Brian Thurston, have had long distinguished international careers for Great Britain.

Since 1999, the Great Britain team has increasingly included players with British passports who do not live in the UK. As a result, numerous players with impressive baseball résumés from the US, Canada and Australia have represented Great Britain. They have included Brant Ust, who has played at the Triple-A level of Minor League Baseball (and who was named tournament MVP at the 2007 Euros), and Eddie Delzer, who earned the win for Cal-State Fullerton in the Division I College World Series Finals in 1984 and then pitched in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization. In addition a handful of players - such as Mike Nickeas and Ust (US), Simon Eissens (Australia) and Matt Stockman (Canada) - have played for other leading baseball countries' national teams before joining Great Britain.

To view the full Great Britain national baseball team history click here.