Friday, May 29, 2009

My World Of Baseball - an international baseball blog

The next blog I'm going to cover is My World of Baseball, written by Bob, a gentleman who prefers to retain his anonymity. Bob's take:

Baseball news from around the world.

Hey, I'm all for it. And what he's all about:

Welcome to my world of baseball. It is hoped that a little bit of your world will fit in this as well. This site will be updated with news on international baseball. Please feel free to contribute any news you can. Also, visit some of the blogs that also attempt to promote international baseball or a more focused feature on baseball in Taiwan, Japan or elsewhere.

Bob doesn't have a lot of extras on his site, as he goes for the simple look. But the content is everything you want it to be in international baseball.

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

There is a movie out there where the main character has his daughter kidnapped. He happens to get on the phone with the kidnapper and says 'I have these very special skills..." My skills do not reach the glamor of the movie, but they have been acquired over a number of years on the job and have allowed me to travel to more than 50 countries. The skills I have are in an area that I have no real particular interest in, but through luck and a fortunate set of circumstances, they have allowed me to make a nice living for myself. A number of people from around the world contact me for my expertise.

One of the reasons that I created this site was I started thinking of all this expertise I've acquired in an area that is of little interest to me, imagine what could be done in an area that I really enjoy and feel passionate about. So my job does allow me to travel quite a bit, from the tribal areas of Pakistan where the army is battling the Taliban now to the jungles of Rwanda, Cameroon and about all of Africa (eight countries in all). Most of the places I've been to are the places that tourists don't think about going, but it has given me a glimpse of the world that others do not see. So I feel fortunate for what I've been allowed to do.

The only areas of the world I have not seen a lot of are South America (Panama is as far south as I've been). My job rarely takes me to Europe, but I have seen that when playing in volleyball tournaments. I also have the unfortunate circumstance of living in D.C. and having to root for the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals and prior to that living in San Diego and having to root for the Padres. You can never call me a front runner.

While living in San Diego I did get involved in volleyball and played in a couple of professional tournaments, almost getting the opportunity to face Karch Kiraly and Singing Smith in center court. Since the team who beat us got to play them and lost 15-2, it was probably best that my brother and I never got that experience to play them. When a number of tournaments resulted in $0 in winnings I decided I'd better look into another area for my career, went back to school, got a degree and stumbled into my present profession.

My baseball career ended just prior to my senior year in high school. The high school coach was also the defensive coach for the football team and a strict disciplinarian. He didn't want any of his players with hair over their ears and I had just moved from Pensacola, Florida. By the time baseball season came around my hair found itself quite a bit over the ears and when trying to make a choice between getting a haircut to play baseball or keep the hair to look cool, I chose to look cool. It has been one of the worst decisions I've made in my life.

I lost touch with baseball for a ten year period after that and only rediscovered it when a friend asked me to play on his softball team. One softball team led to two and after playing for six different teams I finally had to start saying no when teams asked me if I was available. But once I started playing in all those softball leagues it obviously led to baseball discussions and the interest was rekindled.

2. What got you interested in international baseball?

Actually, going to Japan and watching baseball there. The first time it was just a cool experience. The second time in Japan I had just been to Korea and the Dominican Republic and watched baseball games there so the shock of international baseball had worn off. So I thought it was pretty cool that these other countries also had a passion for baseball.

3. What is your best memory of international baseball?

Being in the Dominican Republic and watching the Licey Tigers play the Aguilas Eagles. Initially we had bought general admission tickets because that was all that was available, but some of the officials we were working with there became concerned about our safety in general admission. So they convinced us to buy the better tickets from the scalpers in the reserved section, negotiated the price for us and we were there.

In general admission they were throwing ice cubes at each other and there was some hand to hand combat going on. The people we were working with kept on pointing to those areas of the stands and reminding us "See - aren't you glad you are not in general admission" but I think it would have been a pretty cool experience. Also watching the Hanshin Tigers play the Yomiuri Giants in a game and sitting in the Giants cheer section. I was wearing a Hanshin Tigers shirt at the time and noticed this usher in a mad dash towards us.

I started thinking that someone must have done something terribly wrong for him to be in such a hurry. I didn't think much of it after I lost him, until this usher tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could take off my shirt. Fortunately, I had another shirt underneath. I was told that they were doing this for my safety. The Giants hit about five home runs, but the Tigers won the game 10-9. Those two games got me hooked.

4. Which team is your favorite international team, and why?

I'm a Rakuten Golden Eagle guy because I saw them play in their first season. It was only natural that I latched onto them. I've been following the Cuban League a lot and I've latched on to the Holquin Dogs because of Aroldis Chapman. I tried to become attached to Sancti Spiritus just to root for a team, but you can't really just pick a team, the team has to pick you. The Licey Tigers are probably the only front runner that I've grabbed onto because many of the Nationals play for them. Their cheerleaders are top notch too.

5. Who is your favorite international player, and why?

I have to vote for Rick Short. He played for the Bowie Bay Sox so I saw him play a lot there. Then he hooked onto the Nationals AAA team and hit .400 for most of the year before being called up to the major league team in September. The Nationals didn't give him a fair shot, so then I come to Japan and see the Rakuten Eagles for the first time and who should be playing for them but Rick Short. I'm also becoming quite fond of Hisashi Iwakuma with the Rakuten team and Aroldis Chapman for Holquin.

6. What is your favorite international ball park, and why?

The obvious answer is the Hanshin Tigers stadium, Koshien. It has a lot of character and the all dirt infield is something you don't always see. I also liked Seibu's stadium with the umbrella like dome. So you feel like you are outside watching the game but you are actually protected from the elements. Or at least it appears you are. I've never been there when it actually rains, but it looks covered.

7. What is your all-time international team?

Just from some of the performances I've seen I would have Kai Gronauer C (I voted him to my all Olympic qualifier team based on his performance in Taiwan and then the Mets sign him shortly afterward),

Alex Cabrera 1B,
Emilio Bonafacio 2B,
Kaz Matsui SS (one game I saw in Japan he hit three home runs and threw a guy out at home),
3B Yulieski Gourriel
Lf - Vladimir Guerrero,
CF - Norichika Aoki,
RF Ichiro Suzuki
and pitching Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Aroldis Chapman, Shairon Martis and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

My bullpen guy would have to be Marc Kroon from the Padres - didn't make it in the U.S. but is a hit in Japan. It is not the best of the best, but they are guys I would enjoy watching.

8. Why did you start the blog?

I was sitting in the baseball restaurant outside the Giants stadium and thought that a website on international baseball would be pretty cool. When I went back I surfed the net to see if any sites really devoted themselves to international baseball and the only one I saw was the Talking Texan. Everyone else seemed to focus on one particular area of the world. It was also supposed to be a website and not a blog, but the blog became the most fun part of the experience, allowing me to pass on the news in an easier and more user friendly environment than the website.

9. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Right now it is just a hobby and by writing about international baseball I increase my knowledge of it. Since I have a job that I have to devote myself to for the next two and a half years before I can retire it is something I'm doing to see if I want to get even more involved. If I still enjoy it after two and a half years then I can put a lot more effort into the site. Right now, I feel I'm living in an empty house absent any furniture. I'd kind of like to spruce that house up a bit, but that takes time, and what time I take is devoted to the blog. Most of the writing is done after 12 midnight, and then I wake up at six to begin the work day. If you see misspellings or sentences that don't make sense, it is probably because I was writing with both eyes half closed, nodding off in sleep.

10. What American team do you support?

I haven't fully embraced the Nationals yet, but I am a fan of the Orioles, since I've lived in this area for awhile. While living in San Diego I never became that passionate about the Padres because most of my focus was on volleyball during my time there. I moved to Los Angeles and could never like the Dodgers and couldn't embrace the Angels. So I'm hoping the Nationals do the right things that don't drive me away. Not paying rent to the city for their stadium is not the best start, but they haven't driven me away yet. When the Nationals play the Orioles I root for whoever has the best chance of making the playoffs, and based on their performances these last couple of years, that has meant a lot of silence.

11. What is your first baseball memory?

My first little league experience with my dad as a coach. We played a number of exhibition games and my dad asked me why I had yet to swing at a pitch in any of my at bats. It was either a walk or a strike out. I told him I didn't want to waste any of my swings on exhibition games and when I swing the games had to count. My dad then informed me that if I didn't start swinging and showing the coaches I could hit that I probably wouldn't be in the starting lineup. Whoops. I never thought of that. I also remember when I was ten years old and pitched a perfect game no hitter against the best team in the league. I can remember that after each strikeout I would turn my back toward the opponent dugout because I wanted the manager to see my uniform number so that he remembered who beat him. Even though our team finished in the middle of the pack the coaches voted me MVP. I guess showing him my number may have helped with that. My baseball career went downhill after that.

12. What is your favorite baseball memory?

Watching a game between the Angels and Tigers in Anaheim Stadium. The Tigers were up 12-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Angels kept getting hits and the friends that I was with kept joking that the Angels were coming back without any real hope that it would happen. Dick Schofield ended the game with a grand slam home run and the fans went wild. No one would leave the stadium and the authorities had to turn the lights off a couple times and ask the people to leave to move them from their seats.

13. What is your opinion of the World Baseball Classic?

I think it is a shame that the U.S. players don't take it seriously enough. But they know who pays the bills. If they had the same attitude as the Cubans, Japanese and Koreans it would certainly be more interesting. Unfortunately, in the long run major league baseball will be the ruination of any attempt at globalizing baseball, because major league teams will have most of the best players under contract and they don't want them getting hurt while representing their country.

14. What do you say to those who don’t like it?

Get out of your shell. Having played volleyball I got to be pretty good and I competed internationally in a number of tournaments. You think you are pretty good and then you realize there are a lot of players out there that play the same sport as you in different countries and they are pretty good as well. So don't think that while you are in the United States you are watching the best players in the world. There are some pretty good players in Japan, Korea and Cuba. You start to support the globalization of baseball and you will get the opportunity to see them play.

One thing I regret is not seeing Sadaharu Oh play. I finally got to meet him last year and it was awesome to get to see him. He is an icon. My thanks to Wayne Gracyk and Bob Bavasi for that opportunity. What do you say to those who like it? I share your pain. Because in the United States the real avid baseball fans don't support it and they complain about how their best players aren't in spring training because they are in the WBC. They also complain that the WBC is the cause of their poor season, but if they are doing well no one credits the WBC for that.

15. What is your opinion of baseball in the Olympics?

Idealistic if they want to get the best major league players involved. It is quite bold of them to expect baseball to stop their business every four years so their best can compete in the Olympics. It's two billion dollar industries at odds with each other. They are an agency that is making tons of money off the athletes who are performing, yet they don't want to share in any of the risks by promising to pay for the contract of any player that gets injured while participating in the Olympics. They would like their cake and eat it to.

The problem is that many countries trying to develop baseball leagues owe their livelihood to the Olympics because their government pays them a stipend as long as baseball is an Olympic sport. Once baseball is removed from the Olympic schedule those payments stop. So if major league baseball wants to see the sport grow internationally, they must work with the Olympics to get their athletes to participate or replace the Olympics with payments to these countries to keep their baseball leagues in operation.

16. Will baseball being in the Olympics help the international game?

Yes, for the reasons mentioned above. Will baseball being excluded hurt the international game? Yes, because relying on major league baseball alone to support the growth of the globalization of the game is not going to happen as long as they have their own selfish interests to meet. They will promote the international game as long as it meets the best interest of major league baseball.

17. There has been talk of a European professional league. Any thoughts on if it would work/how it would work best?

I think it would help others focus more on European baseball. It is very hard right now to really follow the 12 or so leagues they currently have in France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, etc. Give me one league with the best players available for each country and let them duke it out. At the start Italy and Netherlands would dominate the league, but as the other countries play against the best that should improve their game. I'm trying my best to follow the sport in Europe, but with so many leagues it is just too difficult to embrace in its current format. The problem Europe has is the travel and many of their players have day jobs because baseball by itself is not enough to support them. So someone will have to come up with the money to support the league.

18. Should MLB play more regular season game internationally, and where?

I'd like to see them play in places where a country would support them. Some of those areas where they are just starting to play baseball, or where it is becoming more popular like Brazil, China, Netherlands or Italy. The problem is that most of those countries don't have stadiums that meet the major league specifications. It's kind of like the Queen of England coming to your house to spend the night and how do you fix your accommodations to meet her expectations. You certainly want her to have the best, but at what expense. Major league baseball is like royalty when they go to a country to play and the facilities have to be stellar before major league baseball would agree to play.

19. What is your dream International League? City/country/team? As many divisions/teams as you want.

Take the Konami Cup and just expand it to all the league winners. Then have a 2 out of three elimination and see the teams advance. So the Phillies would represent the United States, the Seibu Lions would represent Japan, the President Lions would represent Taiwan, the Licey Tigers the Dominican Republic, etc. I would actually have that replace the WBC. I think fans follow teams and organizations more than players and you would get more support from the players if they know they were representing their team as well as their country. If you wanted to attract more stars to the game you could have a rule that each team could expand their rosters and add 3-5 players from other teams to reach a 28-30 man roster.

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

I think I've said enough. But my offer holds that if anyone is in D.C. and they show me an international passport I will take you to a ballgame, buying you your ticket. They won't be the best seats in the house, but it will be baseball. At some point in time some person with enough capital will try to put together an international baseball magazine. Or perhaps a website. There are enough blogs out there and writers that it could be pretty successful. Baseball America started with a guy in his garage sending out the magazine. I was one of the early subscribers, not the original. Who would have thought that a magazine written about minor leaguers would become so successful. The same will some day happen for international baseball. The big decision would be what language should it be printed in.

Bob, many thanks for doing this. You've got a unique perspective on the international game. Sounds like an interesting life also.

Let us know when the autobiography comes out. That's one I want to read.

2 noteworthy things. Bob's not a Yankee fan, and no DH listed on this all-time team. The word is spreading.


sports said...

Tell us a little about yourself?

There is a movie out there where the main character has his daughter kidnapped. He happens to get on the phone with the kidnapper and says 'I have these very special skills..." My skills do not reach the glamor of the movie, but they have been acquired over a number of years on the job and have allowed me to travel to more than 50 countries. The skills I have are in an area that I have no real particular interest in, but through luck and a fortunate set of circumstances, they have allowed me to make a nice living for myself. A number of people from around the world contact me for my expertise.

One of the reasons that I created this site was I started thinking of all this expertise I've acquired in an area that is of little interest to me, imagine what could be done in an area that I really enjoy and feel passionate about.

sports said...


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