Baseball goes international

Cultural Insights — By on April 2, 2007 at 12:24 pm

It’s opening day for baseball season in the United States. Every newspaper just did some form of a preseason preview and a few of them used the occasion to discuss the internationalization of baseball, particularly with more Japanese players now joining a large contingent of Latin Americans on team rosters.

The Hartfourd Courant looked at the history of baseball in Japan and why the sport seemed to fit well with Japanese culture.

Conditions in Japan, meanwhile, formed near-perfect conditions for baseball to become the national game. The Meiji period, a time of modernization and acceptance of ideas from the West, was in full swing and the elite universities were looking to athletics as a tool for training.

“They considered martial arts,” said Kelly, “but with martial arts, there was too much emphasis on the individual. It didn’t teach the right lessons. Baseball has the one-on-one confrontation of the batter and the pitcher, similar to sumo wrestling, and yet it is a team game, which involves the sacrifice of the individual for the team.” …

“Baseball is viewed as an opportunity and a way to show fighting spirit handed down from `Bushido,’ which is the code of the Samurai warriors,” Hillman said. “It is also very much a team sport and that fits into this culture, especially in the sacrificing one’s individual stats for the good of the team.”

And one topic in a Boston Globe article was the impact of Japan’s group-oriented culture on the sport:

“They’re a far more humble people than we are. They’re not encouraged to be independent. They’re encouraged to follow rules. There’s a saying, ‘The nail that sticks up gets beat down.’ If you’re an individual, you wouldn’t play on the high school team. They push teamwork, being the same, to the point where they wouldn’t allow a star, if different from everyone else, to be on the team.

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