Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PANIC! At The Fields

There is this baseball field called Koushien in western Japan, and there is this inter-high school baseball tournament (koukou yakyuu) taking place at Koushien twice a year during spring break and summer break. Baseball is probably still the most popular sport in Japan perhaps being caught up by soccer, but anyway, the Koushien tournament of the summer holding is socially a huge deal for the Japanese people in general not to mention almost all the teenage baseball players who dream to become a professional baseball players in the near future.

Well, the reason for me to talk about this topic even though it's not exactly summer is that the players who have become suddenly famous at last summer's holding are starting to begin new baseball careers in new environments.

A lot of the most eye-catching, talented players entered the world of professional baseball league in Japan aka Pro Yakyu, including Tanaka Masahiro the ace pitcher of Komadai Tomakomai High School who lost against Saito Yuuki the ace pitcher of Waseda Jitsugyo High School at the Finals. Finals, in this case, because they played twice as a result for the game didn't end at the first final match. Tanaka chose to play for a new, actually weak but extremely popular team called the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (good for him ;-). Although the league hasn't opened for the new season yet but the camps and trainings have and so far he has thrown two intrasquad games for a few innings each. So far it seems like the difference between high school baseball and professional is pretty big for him as he has given out several homeruns. But I hope he'll become a really good player because I think he has the talent and potential for becoming a real monster.

The point I wanted to get to is not about Tanaka's results but more about the panicky fever that's been surrounding the other ace. The winning ace for last summer's holding, Saito, has got not only the victory he desired but thousands of fans across the country and a social phenomenon he probably didn't intend to arouse. He unlike Tanaka and other players decided to go on to Waseda University (parent school of thehigh school he went to) and play as a varsity player before pro. Even as I see it now after half year since the victory, the attention of the media and the society is beyond the boundaries of sane. It is so big and crazy that Saito's surroundings like the Tokyo six universities baseball association (don't know the proper English name... a baseball inter-varisity. kind of like a baseball limited Ivy League) which usually don't like to favor one player over others have to get together for a conferences to discuss full measures against Saito fans flooding over to his first game.

According to their announcement yesterday, it looks as though a lot of the most normal things are going to be different with Saito being on the team. There will be longer practices, longer practice hour intervals, shorter press conferences after games, wider space for the press, buses taking the team right to the entrance with the short passage entirely covered with sheets, and ten times as much guards as the other "regular" games to shut the players from the panic wave. His debut is going to be such a mess - meaning outiside of the field.

Going back to Tanaka, his first game after the pro league opens is also probably going to be a panic. After all, even though he did lose against Saito he is a good player who has a better high school strikeout record than the so-called "monster" Matsuzaka making his debut soon as a Red Sox player, and also winning the Summer Koushien twice before (2004 & 2005).

And speaking of fan panic, the debut game for Matsuzaka I just mentioned will probably become a panic more or less close to that of Saito's at least here in Japan. Like I wrote some time ago, an extraordinary number of media and fans flew across the ocean just for his press conference. Imagine how many are going to fight over the seats for his first game.

So baseball. Seems like it's getting revitalized with good fresh and young (and I stress "young" for good reasons. Guess why) players these days.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Kanji Names - got five names published today. Come see if the same name as your's are listed on our kanji name section.

(FYI I borrowed the title name from the American band PANIC! AT THE DISCO just because their album's been playing in my head for hours now.)

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